Alumnus’ documentary tells the story of leprosy’s cure
Director John Wilhelm ’59 recounts the story of a little-known community of leprosy patients and its role in curing the disease in his latest documentary, “Triumph at Carville,” written and produced with wife Sally Squires. The film, which premieres March 28 at 10:00 p.m. on PBS, documents the triumph over mankind’s most feared disease and tells a tale of bravery, perseverance and compassion that flourished within the Louisiana leprosarium known as Carville.
Wilhelm, who began his career writing for Time magazine, has enjoyed award-winning success as a filmmaker, with acclaimed works that include the four-part PBS series The Health Century and the Emmy-nominated PBS science special Comet Halley.
Wilhelm’s latest film captures the history of Carville from its beginning in an abandoned, antebellum sugar plantation 25 miles south of Baton Rouge. Conditions there were horrific, and it took decades for the hauntingly beautiful grounds to become a refuge for leprosy patients from all over the world.
In time, greater understanding about this mysterious ailment emerged from the extensive research conducted at Carville. (Leprosy today is known as Hansen’s disease, named for Gerhard Hansen, the Norwegian discoverer of the bacteria that cause it.) The facility gradually evolved into a more hospital-like environment and later into something that resembled a gated community, complete with golf course, athletic fields, dances and an annual Mardi Gras with hand-me-down costumes from the New Orleans celebration. And out of this unique community came a gift for the entire world: a multi-drug therapy that today is considered a cure.
Patients in the United States no longer are quarantined. With early diagnosis and treatment, they can lead entirely normal lives. In 1999, the U.S. Public Health Service transferred Carville back to the state of Louisiana. Some 5,000 patients had passed through its gates.
Crafted from contemporary interviews, as well as old radio shows, movie news accounts and other archival materials — including an exclusive trove of photographs taken by a longtime patient — “Triumph at Carville” takes viewers inside Carville and introduces them to patients, Daughters of Charity nuns, doctors and staff who lived and worked there.
Photo: Graveyard at Carville, courtesy of Allen Moore/The Wilhelm Group, Inc.
Hockey champions move on to NCAAs
Goalie Zane Kalemba ’10 notched his third shutout of the postseason in Princeton’s 3-0 ECAC Hockey semifinal win over Colgate March 21, and the Tigers continued their hot streak with a 4-1 victory against Harvard in the championship game March 22. Kalemba, who made 35 saves against the Crimson, was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
With the ECAC Hockey title in hand, Princeton will move on to face North Dakota in the NCAA Championships March 29 at 3 p.m. at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. Check goprincetontigers.com for information about tickets and regional television coverage of Princeton’s NCAA games.
Perusing PRISM posters
Jacob Tarver, a graduate student in chemical engineering, reads about Princeton research in the Friend Center during the PRISM University-Industry Symposium March 18. The two-day program covered topics in “Materials for Energy” and “Photonics, Sensors, and Networks.”
Photo by Frank Wojciechowski