Deceased September 7, 2016
Dr. Yo Yuasa passed away on Sept. 7 at the age of 90. His passing was peaceful and painless and was attended by family members.
The Notice of Bereavement I received from the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation indicated Dr. Yuasa was medical director at Sasakawa for over 30 years and the central figure in the Foundation’s mission to realize a leprosy-free world. His book, A Life Fighting Leprosy, clearly depicts his commitment, dedication and untiring efforts to bring an end to the millennia of sufferings caused by leprosy.
In 1975, when Yo joined Sasakawa, there were more than 6 million recorded cases of leprosy in the world and it was endemic in 120 countries. Today, it is not endemic in any country and there are only 250,000 cases worldwide. For his achievements as the longtime head of the International Leprosy Organization, Yo received the highest honor in his field, the Damien-Dutton Award. Other recipients include Mother Teresa and John F. Kennedy.
Sadly, very few in our class have any memory of Yo. Fortunately, I was able to meet with Yo and his wife, Dr. Yoku Yuasa, over Memorial Day 2014 and managed to obtain a photo of the two of them beside the oil portrait of Yo’s idol, Joseph Neesima, in Johnson Chapel. I came away impressed with Yo’s life story, his conquest of a dread disease, his close ties with Neesima and the important role his Amherst education played in his success.
I made a promise to Yo that I would do my best to see that the Amherst community be informed of his full life story as it could serve future pre-med students as a template for ridding the world of other diseases. I intend to keep that promise.
Mike Palmer ’53