Dr Paul Brand CBE
(1914 – 2003)
Dr Paul Brand pioneered the tendon transfer techniques still used today to allow the hands and feet of leprosy patients to function properly once again. He made a huge contribution to understanding leprosy as a disease as it was his meticulous research that proved leprosy does not cause the ‘rotting away’ of the hands and feet. Instead it is the loss of sensation which makes people affected by leprosy prone to injuring themselves.
The son of missionary parents, Dr Brand grew up in India until his schooling took him back to England. He became an orthopaedic surgeon and in 1946 returned to India with his wife Margaret to teach at a hospital in Vellore. It was there that he saw the horrors of untreated leprosy and the associated stigma.
It touched Dr Brand greatly when, unable to speak the local language, he gave a leprosy patient a friendly prod to assure him he would help him as much as he could. Tears started to stream down the patient’s face and Dr Brand asked a colleague what he had done to distress him. She replied: “You touched him and no-one has done that for years. They are tears of joy.“
Dr Brand and his wife began to search for effective treatments for the disabilities leprosy can cause. His ideas were initially viewed with a degree of prejudice and hostility as they involved giving medical treatment and a hospital bed to people with leprosy. In the late 1940s, however, Dr Brand became the first surgeon in the world to use reconstructive surgery to correct leprosy-caused defomities in the hands and feet.
Inspired by his experiences of working with people affected by leprosy, Dr Brand developed a philosophy about the valuable nature of pain which he and author Philip Yancey wrote about in their book, The Gift of Pain.
From 1993 to 1999, Dr Brand served as President of The Leprosy Mission International.