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In memory of Armin Prinz

Former Head of MedUni Vienna's Division of Ethnomedicine has died unexpectedly at the age of 73
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(Vienna, 31 August 2018) Ao.Prof. DDr. Armin Prinz, former Head of the Division of Ethnomedicine at the Medical  University of Vienna died unexpectedly on 25 August 2018.

Armin Prinz was born in Öblarn on 29 July 1945, studied ethnology and medicine in Vienna and gained his postdoctoral qualification in ethnomedicine at MedUni Vienna. In both his roles – as an emergency doctor at Vienna airport and a Divisional Head at MedUni Vienna – he combined medicine and ethnology like no other, truly epitomising the concept of interdisciplinarity. He often used to say: "To doctors I am an ethnologist and to ethnologists I am a doctor." He saw himself as both and found it amusing when people tried to put him in one category or the other.

Armin's life path was not a straightforward one. As a teenager he dropped out of secondary school, decided at 16 to go to sea and completed his seamanship qualifications at "Schulschiff Deutschland" in Bremen. For some years he worked for large German shipping companies before contracting malaria, which then forced him to give up this profession. At the age of 24 he caught up with his studies, gaining his school leaving certificate as an external student and then going on to study ethnology, and later medicine. During his double degree course he spent several years in remote regions of Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. After completing both his degrees and serving his internship, his research activities saw him repeatedly return over a period of many years to the Zande tribe, a large ethnic group in north-east Congo, where he made films professionally and supported the World Health Organization as an adviser during the Ebola outbreak in Isiro in 2012.

He began to hold his legendary lectures as early as 1981. Many of us know him primarily from these lectures, where we were captivated by his wide-ranging expertise, his wit and his passion for Africa. He published papers on ethnomedicine, nutritional anthropology, ethnopharmacology and the history of medicine, finally completing his postdoctoral qualification in 1989. He supervised numerous students, whom he repeatedly involved in his research activities in Congo and Senegal. He built up his own library and established the Ethnomedicine Collection, comprising artefacts and predominantly contemporary paintings by now-famous African artists, which is currently housed in the Weltmuseum (Museum of Ethnology) in Vienna. Parts of this collection will soon be on display in the Kunsthaus (Museum of Art) in Graz but, unfortunately, he will no longer be here to see the opening of the exhibition in September 2018.

Armin Prinz was a passionate scientist, mentor, doctor and ethnologist and also a visionary in many areas, such as "intercultural skills" and "global health", although he did not like these terms.  He will be sadly missed by his colleagues, his former students and, of course, his family.

Ruth Kutalek