Photo source: USAID

Center for Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology, Ministry of Health

Dr. Sakhone Laymanivong is the go-to person whenever there is a problem, concern, or question about the National NTD Program in Laos. Whatever the situation, he’ll handle it with his characteristic quiet, speedy competence.

Immediately after completing his medical degree, Dr. Sakhone joined the Center for Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology at the Ministry of Health in 1997. He found himself responsible for the laboratory interpretation and analysis of a national survey on the burden of soil-transmitted helminthes (STH). With the results, he worked the Ministry of Education to organize a mass drug treatment program for STH aimed at schoolchildren in areas of very high disease prevalence. That small program has since grown to cover the entire primary and junior secondary school system across the country; it now treats close to 2 million children every year.

Dr. Sakhone’s work expanded to include assessments and mass treatment for lymphatic filariasis (elephantitis) and schistosomiasis (snail fever), both found in isolated areas of the country. By 2008, he was the point person for major public health interventions for all these NTDs, responsible for coordination with implementing partners in the field, as well as international agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and USAID.

Working quietly behind the scenes, Dr. Sakhone does the annual planning, budgeting, and report writing for these major NTD disease programs. He actively participates in quality control activities during major assessments; and he provides on-the-job training in lab sciences for the Center’s technical staff. He coordinates and supervises most field activities, including orientation workshops, coordination meetings, mass treatment campaigns and surveillance activities. He also has assumed the responsibility for maintaining records and managing the database for all program activities.

Dr. Sakhone works tirelessly to ensure the smooth operation of all NTD activities organized through the Center, and he routinely forgoes holidays and weekends to make sure important activities are well managed. He even missed the birth of his third son because he was in the field supervising the mass treatment for lymphatic filariasis! Millions of people across Laos owe a debt of gratitude to this selfless individual.