William Bicknell, Iconoclastic IH Professor, 1936-2012

June 6, 2012

Dr. William J. Bicknell, an outspoken, inspirational professor of international health who sought to “make people hurt less,” has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 75.

Bicknell, who died Tuesday night at his home in Marshfield, Mass., was the founder and chair emeritus of the Department of International Health at the School of Public Health and helped grow the department into a globally recognized leader. He held a dual appointment at the School of Medicine as a professor and director of international health programs in the Department of Family Medicine.

Dr. Brian Jack, professor and vice chairman of the Department of Family Medicine at Boston Medical Center and the BU School of Medicine, said Bicknell devoted the last years of his life to strengthening the work of the Lesotho-Boston Health Alliance. Bicknell and Jack founded the alliance a decade ago to improve Lesotho’s medical capacity by strengthening hospitals and establishing a family medicine residency program to help retain physicians in the impoverished country.

Many of those influenced by Bicknell said goodbye at the May 2 lecture and in small gatherings held in Boston and Lesotho. He spent his last days accompanied by family and friends at home in Marshfield, in a sunroom where he could look out across the salt-marsh landscape that he loved.

Global health is now a major focus of Boston University and none of that would have been true without Bill Bicknell,” BUSPH Dean Robert Meenan said. “The mission of the school is to prioritize the disadvantaged, underserved and vulnerable and Bill has embodied that mission in his life’s work.

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Submitted by Michael Saunders (msaunder@bu.edu) and Lisa Chedekel (chedekel@bu.edu)