MEC Member Charles Mackenzie awarded Order of Australia honor

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A Michigan State University veterinary professor and member of the African Studies Center has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for his work to improve the lives of millions of people with debilitating diseases and his contributions toward eliminating the ailments in many parts of the world. Charles Mackenzie, a professor in the Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation in the College of Veterinary Medicine, has spent his career fighting and researching debilitating diseases such as elephantiasis and river blindness. His appointment to the Australian Order was made Jan. 26 on Australia Day.

As the pre-eminent way Australians recognize exceptional service to the country or humanity at large, appointments to the Order have been made for less than 2,000 Australian citizens since its introduction in 1975.

In May 2012, Australia’s governor-general, Quentin Bryce will present Mackenzie with the badge of the Officer of the Order of Australia, a gold-plated silver medal inscribed with the word “Australia,” at a ceremony in Canberra. Mackenzie also will carry the initials of AO after his name to indicate his position in the Australian Order.

Mackenzie’s skills as a pathologist and knowledge of infectious tropical diseases have led to new drugs for treating filarial infections.

“I came to MSU because of the joint approach to human and animal pathology,” Mackenzie said. “Pathology is the central piece to understanding why something is going wrong clinically.”

Coming to MSU in 1988 was a logical progression for Mackenzie, who had also served as the director of pathology at the University of London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“As a large research institution, MSU offers a vast array of research capabilities; I could always get the best science done on my work,” he said.

Mackenzie spent the next 23 years investigating the filarial diseases known as river blindness and elephantiasis. Both are infections caused by worms that can lead to disfigurement or blindness, as well as economic hardship and stigma.

“The awarding of the Officer of the Order of Australia to Charles Mackenzie is an exceptional honor and recognizes his long-term commitment and substantial contribution not only to the investigation of filarial diseases but to the development of successful programs for treatment in several countries,” said Jill McCutcheon, professor and chairperson of the Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation. “His research and outreach has helped to bring together and maintain the support necessary to make immense strides toward the eradication of this debilitating disease.”

The results of Mackenzie’s work include the elimination of river blindness in Ecuador and the creation of elimination programs in Sudan and Tanzania. “He has worked tirelessly for decades in developing, testing and administering treatments that have brought new hope to hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide who are infected with parasitic diseases,” said James Pritchett, director of the African Studies Center.

“His personal impact on the health of the planet is immeasurable and epitomizes the university’s missions to utilize the benefits of cutting-edge research to address complex global problems.”

Mackenzie became a member of the African Studies Center soon after joining the faculty at MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. The center is a national resource center funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI program and is known for its leadership in creating mutually beneficial partnership with African universities and nongovernmental organizations. The college is a world-renowned institute of veterinary education, which strives to develop a diverse academic community to foster scholarly activity and encourage exemplary human qualities.

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