Thomas Rea

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Thomas Herald Rea (1929 – February 7, 2016) was an American dermatologist known for his research into treatments for leprosy. [1]

Leprosy chronic infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium lepræ and Mycobacterium lepromatosis

Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease (HD), is a long-term infection by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Initially, infections are without symptoms and typically remain this way for 5 to 20 years. Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain, which can lead to the loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds. Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present.


Early life

Rea was born in 1929 in Three Rivers, Michigan. [2] He graduated from Oberlin College and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor's medical school, where he also completed his dermatology residency. [2]

Three Rivers, Michigan City in Michigan, United States

Three Rivers is a city in St. Joseph County in southwestern Michigan in the United States. The population was 7,811 at the 2010 census.

Oberlin College private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio, United States

Oberlin College is a private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio. Founded as the Oberlin Collegiate Institute in 1833 by John Jay Shipherd and Philo Stewart, it is the oldest coeducational liberal arts college in the United States and the second oldest continuously operating coeducational institute of higher learning in the world. The Oberlin Conservatory of Music is the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the United States. In 1835 Oberlin became one of the first colleges in the United States to admit African Americans, and in 1837 the first to admit women.


Rea worked for the U.S. Army Medical Corps in Korea and in the dermatology department at New York University before moving to Los Angeles in 1970. [2] From 1981 to 1996, he was the head of the dermatology division at University of Southern California. [2]

Medical Corps (United States Army) U.S. Army Medical Corps

The Medical Corps (MC) of the U.S. Army is a staff corps of the U.S. Army Medical Department (AMEDD) consisting of commissioned medical officers – physicians with either an M.D. or a D.O. degree, at least one year of post-graduate clinical training, and a state medical license.

New York University private research university in New York, NY, United States

New York University (NYU) is a private research university spread throughout the world. Founded in 1831, NYU's historical campus is in Greenwich Village, New York City. As a global university, students can graduate from its degree-granting campuses in NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai, as well as study at its 12 academic centers in Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Florence, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Sydney, Tel Aviv, and Washington, D.C.

Los Angeles City in California

Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles and often known by its initials L.A., is the most populous city in California and the second most populous city in the United States, after New York. With an estimated population of four million, Los Angeles is the cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California. The city is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and sprawling metropolis.


Rea and his colleague Robert Modlin researched the role the immune system played in symptoms of leprosy, which led to the development of new treatments for the disease that rendered it non-contagious and allowed leprosy patients to live normal lives. [2] Rea also supported the use of thalidomide to treat a complication of leprosy. [2]

Immune system A biological system that protects an organism against disease

The immune system is a host defense system comprising many biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease. To function properly, an immune system must detect a wide variety of agents, known as pathogens, from viruses to parasitic worms, and distinguish them from the organism's own healthy tissue. In many species, the immune system can be classified into subsystems, such as the innate immune system versus the adaptive immune system, or humoral immunity versus cell-mediated immunity. In humans, the blood–brain barrier, blood–cerebrospinal fluid barrier, and similar fluid–brain barriers separate the peripheral immune system from the neuroimmune system, which protects the brain.

Thalidomide chemical compound

Thalidomide, sold under the brand name Immunoprin, among others, is an immunomodulatory drug and the prototype of the thalidomide class of drugs. Today, thalidomide is used mainly as a treatment of certain cancers and of a complication of leprosy.


Rea died on February 7, 2016, at his home in the San Gabriel Mountains, after a battle with cancer. [2]

San Gabriel Mountains mountain range in Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, California

The San Gabriel Mountains are a mountain range located in northern Los Angeles County and western San Bernardino County, California, United States. The mountain range is part of the Transverse Ranges and lies between the Los Angeles Basin and the Mojave Desert, with Interstate 5 to the west and Interstate 15 to the east. This range lies in, and is surrounded by, the Angeles National Forest, with the San Andreas Fault as the northern border of the range.

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Robert Liveing (1834-1919) Adm. pens. at CHRIST\\S, Apr. 29, 18‍52. [3rd] s. of Edward, M.R.C.S. B. Mar. 30, 18‍34, at Nayland, Suffolk. School, private. Matric. Michs. 18‍52; Scholar, 18‍55; B.A. 18‍56; M.A. 18‍60; M.B. 18‍61; M.D. 18&

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