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History of the National Hansen's Disease (Leprosy) Program


Hansen's Disease Center Indian campsite image.Future home of National Hansen's Disease (Leprosy) Center is purchased by Robert Coleman Camp on May 12. It is a tract known as Indian Camp, a reference to its earlier use as a Houma Indian hunting and fishing ground. Camp, a Virginia-born planter, begins to build his farm, Woodlawn Plantation, on the site.


Notable New Orleans architect Henry Howard oversees construction of what will one day be the National Hansen's Disease (Leprosy) Center administration building. He also designed Nottoway Mansion and other historic plantation manor houses on Louisiana's famous Great River Road.


Robert C. Camp, now a general in the Confederate Army, commissions the construction of the plantation manor house and brings his troops up from New Orleans for rest and relaxation.


Louisiana Leper Home image.Louisiana meets the challenge of providing care for leprosy patients and establishes the Louisiana Leper Home on the site in what is now known as Carville, Louisiana. Five men and two women with Hansen's disease, then called leprosy, were brought by barge to the now-abandoned sugar plantation on a bend of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The Louisiana State Legislature, with Dr. Isadore Dyer, a dermatologist and leprologist from Tulane University medical school, establishes the Control Board for the Louisiana Leper Home, "a place of refuge, not reproach; a place of treatment and research, not detention."


Catholic Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul image.Dr. Dyer and Mother Mariana contract an agreement for, "the nursing of the patients and the household management," of the Louisiana Home.  Four Catholic Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, from Emmitsburg, Maryland, arrive to provide care for the patients under the leadership and charge of Sister Beatrice Hart.


Hansen's Disease Center Covered Walkways image.State of Louisiana purchases the property and its contents in December of 1905.  The State provides custodial care for the patients and funds the first "home" in the U.S. for patients with leprosy.  Many building improvements are made and the first covered walkways are constructed. 



Patient John Early testifies before Congress about the need for a U.S. Hospital for Leprosy.  He believes that a hospital and research facility can offer the patients hope, instead of just custodial care in a remote place away from society.


An Act to establish a National Leprosarium in Carville, Louisiana is passed by the U.S. Senate on February 3. Senate Bill number 4086 was introduced by William M. Danner, from the American Leprosy Missions, Rupert Blue, MD, Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service, and Senator Joseph E. Ransdell, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and National Quarantine.


The "Home" is sold by the State of Louisiana to the Federal Government for $35,000.


U.S. Marine Hospital Number 66, the National Leprosarium of the U.S. image.The U.S. Public Health Service takes  operational control and the "Home" becomes U.S. Marine Hospital Number 66 ... the National Leprosarium of the United States.


The Star Publication image.  Alone No Longer Publication image.

Patient Stanley Stein, aka Carville's Crusader, prints the first issue of the Sixty-Six Star, a 2-page, in-house patient two-page news sheet. It later becomes The Star, a world renowned, international publication. He also writes a book about his fight for human rights for each of his fellow patients called Alone No Longer.


Hansen's Disease Center Federal Building Project image.A Federal Building Project enlarges and enhances the safety and well being of the patients and staff with a quadrangle of two-story concrete permanent buildings connected by two miles of enclosed walkways.


Sister Hilary Ross image.Sister Hilary Ross, Daughters of Charity, and Dr. George Fite, U.S. Public Health Service officer, start a laboratory for drug testing.  Sister Hilary Ross was a missionary, scientist, pharmacist, photographer, writer, research biochemist, international orator and educator in the field of Hansen's disease.  She received some of the highest awards given by the Federal Government and supportive organizations for her work and writings in leprosy.


Guy Henry Faget, MD image.Guy Henry Faget, MD, director, National Leprosarium, U.S. Marine Hospital 66, pioneers sulfone drug therapy.  Dr. Faget and his staff demonstrate the efficacy of sulfone drugs, including Promin, Diasone, and Promizole in the treatment of Hansen's disease, which gives new hope to people with the disease. At the end of one year, 15 of 22 patients had improved. Today, these sulfone drugs are part of the multi-drug therapy recommended today by the World Health Organization as effective treatment for Hansen's disease (leprosy).


Patients given the right to vote.


Patient Betty Martin image.Patient Betty Martin's autobiography, Miracle at Carville, hits the New York Times best-sellers list.





The "age of enlightenment" begins. Rehabilitation, training, education and patient's rights become a new focus.


Dr. Paul W. Brand image.Dr. Paul W. Brand begins the first rehabilitation research program for Hansen's disease patients. Studies begin in the biomechanics of deformity of hands and feet.  The development of amputation prevention footcare techniques begin and today also help people with diabetes and other diseases.  Dr. Brand's methodology of measuring, healing and prevention techniques and reconstructive surgery of hands and feet live on today in the National Hansen's Disease (Leprosy) Program Rehabilitation Research Laboratory.


Captain Robert C. Hastings image.Captain Robert C. Hastings, MD, Ph.D., USPHS, defines the role of thalidomide in leprosy and becomes the editor of the International Journal of Leprosy.  Thalidomide is supplied by the U.S. Public Health Service-Carville for Hansen's disease (leprosy) patients in the United States and Canada only. Because of these early studies, millions of future patients may be spared crippling deformity and intense suffering.


Captain Robert R. Jacobson, MD, image.Captain Robert R. Jacobson, MD, Ph.D., USPHS, pioneers drug resistance and its prevention and Rifampin is introduced as part of the multi-drug therapy for Hansen's disease (leprosy) in the U.S. Capt. Jacobson's extensive work with the World Health Organization helps eliminate Hansen's disease (leprosy) as a worldwide public health problem. Dr. Jacobson becomes director of the National Hansen's Disease Programs in 1992 and serves in that capacity until his retirement in July 2000.


Dr. W.F. Kirchheimer image.Dr. W.F. Kirchheimer, research scientist, develops the armadillo model as a tool for the development of systemic disease similar to human Hansen's disease (leprosy). M. leprae has not been cultivated on artificial laboratory media to date.  Today Hansen's disease (leprosy) bacilli are provided for researchers worldwide.


Map of Regional Hansen’s Disease Clinics image.Regional Hansen’s disease clinics are established to provide outpatient care for Hansen’s disease (leprosy) patients.  Eleven community health programs are begun: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Puerto Rico, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Texas and Hawaii.  Services provided include: diagnosis, treatment, follow-up, contact monitoring, disability prevention, education (professional, patient, public), maintenance of referral system for Hansen's disease health care services and maintenance of Hansen's disease registry and database. 


The newly-established Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, assumes responsibility for the management and operation of the Hansen's disease (leprosy) facility at Carville.


Gillis W. Long Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) Center image.The facility becomes the Gillis W. Long Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) Center, named after the distinguished United States Congressman, close friend and associate of the people working and living with Hansen's disease (leprosy).


Carville Historic District placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service.


The Hansen's Disease (Leprosy) Center Laboratory Research Branch moves to the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in Baton Rouge.


The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) awards the Gillis W. Long Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) Center facility its highest level of accreditation, a three year accreditation with commendation.


Hansens's Disease Center Centennial Celebration image.The Hansen's Disease Center holds its centennial celebration




The Hansen's Disease Center is awarded a $3.5 million grant to test drugs that fight tuberculosis. The grant is headed by Dr. James Krahenbuhl, director of the laboratory research branch.


Centennial Celebration of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul’s image.Centennial celebration of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul’s arrival in 1896 to care and manage the facility for patients with Hansen's disease (leprosy).





The National Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) Museum is founded.  The museum becomes a reality as a result of exhibit items collected for the 1994 Carville Centennial and the 1996 100-year anniversary of the arrival of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul at Carville.


The U.S. Congress passes a bill to relocate the Gillis W. Long Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) Center to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The bill is authored by Congressman Richard Baker (R-LA).


Hansen's Disease Center Indian Camp Plantation image.The U.S. Government returns title to Indian Camp Plantation to the State of Louisiana, which locates a new program for at-risk youths, supervised by the Louisiana National Guard.