John La Montagne, deputy director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, died suddenly in Mexico City on Tuesday at age 61.
La Montagne, a native of Mexico City, was scheduled to attend a Pan American Health Organization meeting there when he collapsed in the airport. The cause of his death is not yet known, a spokesman for the NIH said, but a news release sent out by the Pan American Health Organization said the death was "an apparent heart attack."
La Montagne started working for the NIH in 1976 and will be most remembered for his work with childhood infectious diseases, the spokesman said. La Montagne received a Ph.D. in microbiology from Tulane University, New Orleans, in 1971.
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson in a news release said, "I am deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Dr. John La Montagne, a true public-health hero whose leadership, especially in the realm of infectious diseases, left the world a healthier place."
Plans have not yet been made for naming a successor.