“We have lost a great leader in the fight against TB. She was a strong and charismatic global champion for the role of labs and diagnosis in disease control,” said Dr Catharina Boehme, FIND CEO. “She inspired everyone with her personal commitment and was a highly valued voice in WHO expert meetings on introducing new molecular tests.”
Dr Rüsch-Gerdes was Head of the National Reference Centre for Mycobacteria at the Research Centre Borstel, Germany (Forschungszentrum Borstel) from 1975 to 2015. Under her leadership, it became an important Supranational TB Reference Laboratory of the World Health Organization, and a provider of external quality assurance for the TB labs of Germany and dozens of other countries.
Dr Rüsch-Gerdes played a critical role in introducing and expanding access to new TB diagnostics in low- and middle-income countries. “Her way of empowering labs around the world to pursue microbiological diagnosis was unmatched,” said Dr Claudia Denkinger, Head of TB Programmes at FIND. “She gave reference labs a voice.”
In recognition of her scientific achievements, Dr Rüsch-Gerdes was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2005 and the Gardner Middlebrook Award from the American Society for Microbiology in 2004.
We are grateful for Dr Rüsch-Gerdes’ contributions to advancing the quality and availability of TB diagnosis around the world. Our condolences go to her family and many friends around the world. She has left a powerful legacy that will not be forgotten.