The Global Tobacco Control Community Lost a Gem – In memoriam of Dr Mateusz Zatoński

I first met Mateusz at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) around 2016/2017 (if I remember correctly). I was doing my postdoc at UCSF and Mateusz had just arrived for a short fellowship to study the tobacco industry documents. I was at that time working to unravel the tobacco industry’s interference in Africa using Nigeria as a case study and starting point, while Mateusz said he was doing same for Poland (his country of birth).

Mateusz had spoken with Prof. Stan Glantz (my first of two mentors). Stan introduced him to me as someone with a similar research interest and working in the same tobacco control policy interference space and who seemed to be getting the same results as myself though we were working on two different countries in two different continents.

From right; Dr Mateusz, myself, Prof Pam Ling and Dr Dharma Bhatta at the WCTOH, Cape Town 2018

We got talking and Mateusz immediately struck me as a fine gentleman and an intelligent and curious researcher. We shared many more ideas and hoped we would work together one day someday before he left for the UK where he was undergoing his doctoral studies.

I got a job at the South African Medical Research Council, so I had to relocate to South Africa in 2017. In March 2018, the World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) was taking place for the first time in the African continent and being hosted in Cape Town. I saw Mateusz again (together with his lovely wife (then fiancée – Ola) during the WCTOH in Cape Town and we talked about doing some projects together once again, but this time narrowing our focus.

Poster presentation at SRNT-E conference

After he bagged his PhD, Mateusz worked with the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath. This was the time we actually worked together on a project which produced our paper published in Tobacco Control in November 2021. He also presented a paper at the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco – Europe (SRNT-E) conference from this project. I knew Mateusz was dealing with some health issues because he had told me he was getting treatment for an ailment (I did not want to ask many questions for respect of his privacy) but I did ask about his health subsequently. I did not know the health issue was this serious.

The news of his passing shocked me more knowing that a good part of the time we were writing this paper, Mateusz was dealing with this life-threatening health issue, and he did so without complaining and without using it as an excuse to not do his job (even when it would have been a valid reason). I do not know many who would be this strong emotionally and physically to continue their usual schedule and accomplish tasks expected of them while dealing with a life-threatening condition. Mateusz showed strength, professionalism and finished his task on earth with so much purpose and strength.

Co-authored paper with Mateusz, published in Tobacco Control in November 2021

I received the shocking news of Mateusz’s passing on 21 January 2022. He had said he would contact me for a second paper, and I was looking forward to it this year. I thoroughly enjoyed working with him and I must say that his type is the rarest to find in the academic and research space – sincere, respectful of differences in opinions, professional, good hearted.

I will really miss this dear colleague who became a friend. I believe that his family (especially his wife, Ola) and all those who loved him would always remember the loving person that he was. I hope they also remember the fact that he impacted this world positively and used his time with us on earth so well that he would be fondly remembered.

I extend my condolences to Mateusz’s dear wife (Ola), his parents, colleagues, and friends.

May Mateusz’s soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace, amen.

The global tobacco control community lost a rare gem! We will miss you Dr Mateusz Zatoński

Author: Catherine O. Egbe, PhD

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