September 13, 2022 —
In the 1980s, Dr. Francis (Frank) Plummer changed the way the world understood HIV/AIDS and paved the way for prevention and treatment. Dr. Plummer was a UM alumnus (MD/76), Distinguished Professor of medical microbiology, and Canada Research Chair in Resistance and Susceptibility to Infections. His life of research informed the development of treatments and public health strategies to control infectious diseases, including SARS, H1N1, and Ebola, that are still in use around the world today.
Dr. Plummer was immortalized last week with a new bust unveiled at Innovation Plaza to inspire students and faculty with a tangible reminder of the highest level of excellence at UM. “Dr. Frank Plummer was the model of research excellence to which we all aspire,” says Digvir Jayas, MD, UM Vice President (Research and International). “From Winnipeg to Nairobi and around the world, his contributions have saved the lives of tens of thousands of people, and it is wonderful to see him join the illustrious group here at Innovation Plaza.”
The other researchers appearing in the square are Dr. John M. Bowman, Dr. Baldur Stefansson, Dr. Henry Bruce Chown, and Dr. Carol Shields.
remembering an icon
Frank Plummer was born in Winnipeg in 1952 and received his medical degree from the University of Manitoba in 1976. He continued his training in internal medicine and infectious diseases for many years at the University of Southern California and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. .
Dr. Plummer was just 29 years old when he took up a research position at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, in 1981, as part of a partnership with the University of Manitoba specializing in sexually transmitted infections. While studying with patients in Nairobi, the research team would discover a link in his own work to a growing epidemic in Africa.
“Certain sexually transmitted diseases, notably herpes, chancroid, or syphilis, allow the AIDS virus to be transmitted more efficiently,” explained Dr. Plummer in a 1987 article. cbc interview. “It is hard to overstate the problem in Central Africa, where 10-20% of young adults are infected with the virus, otherwise they are healthy and active people.” But Dr. Plummer also found hope.
An ongoing study among sex workers in Nairobi identified a small cohort that possessed natural immunity to HIV-1, the virus that leads to AIDS. Over the next 17 years, Dr. Plummer and his team will pave the way for the development of the life-saving HIV vaccine and medicines that have improved the quality of life for people living with HIV.
After his return to Canada, Dr. Plummer was appointed Chief Scientific Officer of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg in 2000. There he played a leadership role in Canada’s response to the 2003 SARS pandemic and the H1N1 pandemic. in 2009. He would also help lead the development of the Ebola vaccine used in response to the outbreak in West Africa.
Throughout his illustrious career, Dr. Plummer has also served as Senior Scientific Advisor to the Public Health Agency of Canada and Director General of the Center for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control in Ottawa. He was honored with many awards, including the Officer of the Order of Canada, the Order of Manitoba, the McLaughlin and Flavelle Medals of the Royal Society of Canada, and four honorary degrees.
Dr. Plummer was also recognized for his outstanding contributions to biological science with the Prix Galien Research Award, the Rh Institute Award, the St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation International Award, the Killam Award from the Council of Arts of Canada and the Gairdner Wightman Prize of Canada. .
Dr. Frank Plummer passed away suddenly in 2020 while in Nairobi, Kenya celebrating 40 years.the anniversary of the Manitoba/Kenya research collaboration.
“The breadth of Frank Plummer’s scientific reach was greater than that of any other scientist I know of,” said Keith Fowke, director of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at UM. Manitoba Research. “That’s what made him such a great leader in NML, he knew the clinical situation, the epidemiology of the spread of the disease and he understood the basic science. Having someone at the top who could see the big picture of infectious diseases was really important.”
Dr. Fowke worked alongside Dr. Plummer for more than 30 years in Nairobi and Manitoba, nominated him for an Innovation Plaza honoree. The bust of Dr. Plummer was unveiled by UM President Dr. Michael Benarroch, Dr. Digvir Jayas on September 8.the2022.
Innovation Plaza was established in 2013 to celebrate and honor University of Manitoba academic staff who have demonstrated sustained excellence and global impact and influence through a body of research, scholarly work, or creative activity with a series of commemorative busts. The project was made possible through the vision and leadership of the Richardson Foundation.
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