Denis Burkitt: A legacy of global health.J Med Biogr 2019; 27(1):4-8JM
When first described in 1958, Burkitt lymphoma was considered by many to be an African curiosity. However, over the next few decades, over 10,000 publications on Burkitt lymphoma would influence many facets of oncology research including immunology, molecular genetics, chemotherapy, and viral oncology. At the time of discovery, its distribution in equatorial Africa was unique; it was where a child was born and lived, and not what race they were, that conveyed the greatest incidence risk. Its association with Epstein-Barr virus brought attention to the possibility that oncogenesis may be influenced by viruses. The influence that Burkitt lymphoma had on furthering oncology is far-reaching, and it is fitting that the physician credited with bringing attention to this disease was himself broad in his influence. Denis Burkitt was a humanitarian surgeon whose work was not limited to Burkitt lymphoma: he instigated a plan to rid an entire Ugandan district of yaws, he designed and created affordable orthopaedic equipment that could be locally produced in Kampala, and he was an early advocate of a high fiber diet. The following article will examine the biography of Denis Burkitt, with a focus on how he was able to further oncology and global health.