Dr. Pfau Katherine was born in Leipzig, Germany on 9 September 1929. After World War II when the Russians occupied East Germany she escaped to West Germany along with her family and chose medicine as her future career. In 1949 she studied medicine at Mainz. She was not satisfied with her life. She wanted to do something more: She joined a Catholic order and eventually went to Pakistan.
In 1960 Ruth decided to dedicate the rest of her life to the people of Pakistan and their battle against Leprosy (a skin disease, usually its patient was considered as a curse of God) outbreaks. She came to Karachi and visited a leprosy colony on McLeod Road behind the City Railway Station. At this point of her life, she decided to devote her life for this noble cause. She started with medical treatment for the Leprosy patients in a hut in this slum. A Leprosy Clinic was bought in April 1963 and patients from all over Karachi, Pakistan and even from Afghanistan came for treatment.
Since that time the work grew fast and small treatment centres were established in Karachi and all over Pakistan, training for paramedical workers and social workers were given and health education started to get over prejudices and fear. She went to the far off areas of Pakistan where there were no medical facilities for leprosy patients. She collected donations in Germany and Pakistan and cooperated with hospitals in Rawalpindi and Karachi.
Today, Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre is the hub of 157 Leprosy control centers, with over eight hundred staff members. Thanks to the efforts of Dr Ruth Pfau, Pakistan was declared leprosy in 1996.
The prevalence of the disease reduced to the extent that the World Health Organization declared the disease to be under control in Pakistan, one of the first countries in EMRO Region to achieve this goal. In recognition of her service to the country, she was awarded Pakistani citizenship in 1988 and many national and international awards and medals.
Dr Ruth Pfau identifies herself as a Pakistani, wears Pakistani dress shalwar kameez only. Says that if she were to be born again, she would be born in Pakistan