On 14 February 2020, Dr Emilio Juan Gimeno, an Argentinean scientist with a unique career that had gained him worldwide recognition in the field of animal health, passed away. Dr Gimeno served as President of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) from 1985 to 1988; and in 2014, the OIE presented him with its Gold Medal Award, in recognition of his work on foot and mouth disease (FMD), bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and avian influenza. This annual award is presented to recipients for outstanding services to international veterinary science, relating to the work of the OIE. Dr Gimeno is among such distinguished recipients as Dr Charles Mérieux of France and Dr Walter Plowright of the United Kingdom.
Prof. Emilio Juan Gimeno was the first OIE Regional Representative for the Americas. He spearheaded the process of establishing the Regional Office and started forging closer relations between the OIE and the countries of the region. In addition, he conducted some unprecedented new initiatives, including setting up joint public/private working committees such as the Committee of the Americas on Veterinary Medicines (CAMEVET) to discuss a range of animal health issues of importance to the region.
During his lifetime, Dr Emilio Gimeno held impressive positions both nationally and internationally.
In Argentina, he was president of the National Food Safety and Quality Service (SENASA) on three occasions. His first term began in 1965, during the government of Dr Arturo Illia and under the management of agronomist Walter Kugler at the Secretariat of Agriculture. Subsequently, in 1974, during the only call for competition on who would preside over SENASA, Dr Gimeno was nominated, however, he refused the nomination due to differences with the government, then led by General Juan D. Perón. Finally, between 1980 and 1985 when he accepted the presidency of the Argentinian Veterinary Service during the administration of Dr Raúl Alfonsín. During his time at SENASA, the Meat and Derivatives Regulations – a fundamental basis for food inspection throughout the country – were drafted. These regulations, still current today, exclusively empower SENASA to regulate food control throughout the animal product food chain.
In the fight against FMD, Dr Gimeno was the first to use the field variants to be included in vaccines, in order to achieve better immunity. With regard to BSE, he coordinated and collaborated the first surveys carried out in Argentina to demonstrate the absence of this disease in the 1990s.
During his administration, the SENASA National Laboratory was built in the town of Martínez, Province of Buenos Aires.
Dr Gimeno was Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences of the University of La Plata, between 1972 and 1974, where he taught for 40 years, and during that time he went from Head of Practical Works of Infectious Diseases to Professor Emeritus in Veterinary Public Health, in 2005.
At the time of his death, he was a full member of the National Academy of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine of Argentina.
Dr Gimeno will be greatly missed by his colleagues across the globe.