Expert on disease outbreaks, La. State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard has died
BATON ROUGE - A leading expert in Louisiana advising the state on virus outbreaks has died.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard died earlier in the week, the Louisiana Department of Health revealed in a news release around lunchtime Tuesday.
“Dr. Ratard was an exceptional public health professional and he guided our state through public health responses to West Nile virus, H1N1, Ebola preparation, response to the amoeba Naegleria fowleri and a significant number of environmental and toxicology issues throughout the state,” Governor John Bel Edwards said in a prepared statement.
Ratard, a fixture of Louisiana's public health department, devoted 43 years of his life to public health. For 26 years he worked with the state Office of Public Health in Louisiana.
The governor added: “He was a servant leader and dedicated his career to improving lives. Donna and I express our deepest condolences to Dr. Ratard’s family and to those from the Department of Health who worked closely with him and loved him.”
Dr. Ratard worked and helped respond to public health outbreaks, including HIV and tuberculosis. He was routinely featured in news reports related to West Nile.
“He trained future generations of epidemiologists and set Louisiana on the path forward to respond to public health outbreaks. Dr. Ratard was a force within the Department of Health and our whole region,” Assistant Secretary Dr. Alex Billioux said Tuesday.
“Dr. Ratard had an incredible understanding of the way illness spread, and he was a mentor to many of us within the Office of Public Health,” Deputy Assistant Secretary Beth Scalco said. “We are lucky to have known Dr. Ratard and to have learned from him. His legacy will continue through the work that we do each day for Louisiana.”
Dr. Ratard died earlier this week, the state said, but did not elaborate on how he died, however a state spokesperson said he did not have COVID-19.
Dr. Ratard taught infectious disease epidemiology at the University of South Florida School of Public Health in Tampa, Florida, and served as adjunct faculty at the LSU School of Public Health in New Orleans. He had a keen understanding of disease control, those who worked with him said.
Dr. Ratard received an MD degree from the University of Paris Medical School in France and specialized in tropical medicine, microbiology and immunology. Later, he obtained an MS in parasitology from LSU Medical Center, New Orleans and an MPH&TM from Tulane University, and completed his residency in preventive medicine related to public health in Texas.