Joyce Cohen Lashof, MD, a passionate well being fairness advocate who broke gender obstacles as the primary girl to be appointed director of any state division of public well being and the primary girl appointed dean of the UC Berkeley College of Public Well being, died June 4, 2022, in Berkeley, California, on the age of 96.
An early champion of group well being providers and well being fairness, Lashof achieved a collection of firsts throughout her lengthy profession. She served as the primary feminine director of the State of Illinois Public Well being Division; as deputy assistant secretary for well being on the Division of Well being, Schooling, and Welfare; and as assistant director of the Workplace of Know-how Evaluation earlier than changing into the primary feminine dean of a UC Berkeley skilled college when she grew to become dean of Berkeley Public Well being in 1981. She later served phrases as president of each the Affiliation of Faculties of Public Well being and the American Public Well being Affiliation.
Regardless of many profession achievements and a legacy as a beloved mentor, Lashof remained humble and extra concerned with outcomes than private acclaim.
“She mixed a radical imaginative and prescient of the world and a necessity for change with a really pragmatic, that is what we will do subsequent,” stated her daughter-in-law, Diane Regas, president and CEO of the Belief for Public Land.
A drive to be a health care provider regardless of the obstacles of sexism and anti-Semitism
Lashof was born in 1926 and grew up in Philadelphia, the place her mom, a Yiddish-speaking daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, all the time inspired her to be a health care provider.
“Joyce wished to be a health care provider from a really early age,” stated daughter Carol Lashof, a playwright, educator, and theater producer. “I believe she first wrote to a medical college in her very early teenagers to ask what lessons she might take. In some unspecified time in the future, she wished to be a nurse and her mom stated, ‘Why don’t you be a health care provider?’”
She was up towards each sexism and anti-Semitism as she utilized to medical faculties after graduating from Duke, the place household lore has it that she was informed the medical college wouldn’t settle for any ladies or Jews. In response to the U.S. Nationwide Library of Drugs, “The yr [Lashof] sought to enter medical college, 1945, was additionally the yr that hundreds of males had been coming back from World Battle II and got precedence admission to America’s faculties and universities. The variety of ladies admitted to coeducational faculties was restricted, however she was accepted to the varsity that had been a long-time useful resource for ladies, the Girl’s Medical School of Pennsylvania [later renamed Medical College of Pennsylvania].”
Whereas in medical college, she met mathematician Richard Lashof, generally known as Dick, whose mother and father performed bridge together with her mother and father. They had been married the week earlier than she graduated, so her medical diploma would present her married title. “Their radical politics was what they related on early on,” Regas stated of the match. “They had been concerned with SNCC (the Pupil Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) within the ’60s in Chicago. Joan Baez got here and sang at their home.” The union would produce three kids and final until Dick’s demise in 2010.
A necessity for group healthcare
After a stint as momentary assistant professor within the Division of Drugs and a consulting doctor on the Pupil Well being Companies on the College of Chicago, the place she was denied a tenure-track place as a result of her supervisor feared she’d depart if her husband discovered a job elsewhere, Lashof joined the college of the Division of Preventive Drugs on the College of Illinois School of Drugs.
It was there that she started learning the well being wants of probably the most poverty stricken residents of Chicago, a inhabitants that had a 60% greater toddler mortality fee and a 200% greater incidence of untimely beginning, amongst different well being disparities.
This work targeted on well being fairness would kind the idea for her future skilled life and led to the founding of Chicago’s Mile Sq. Well being Middle in 1967, the second Workplace of Financial Alternative–funded group well being heart within the nation and the accomplishment for which Lashof was most pleased with, in accordance with Regas. Mile Sq. nonetheless serves Chicago’s disenfranchised communities by offering complete major well being take care of each kids and adults.
In 1973 Lashof was named the director of the state of Illinois Public Well being Division, the primary girl to go any state division of well being.
Deanship at UC Berkeley
Lashof’s on-the-ground expertise was a catalyst for change when she grew to become dean of Berkeley Public Well being in 1981.
Not solely did she create new alternatives for ladies on the College and throughout public well being, she additionally introduced a brand new give attention to social justice.
“The college has lengthy had a robust popularity for good, arduous analysis on main well being issues,” stated Dr. Meredith Minkler, professor emerita of well being and social conduct at Berkeley Public Well being, “however Joyce was the primary one to take the spirit of the occasions and perceive the necessity for an actual give attention to well being and social justice, particularly the place Black Individuals had been involved.”
Present Dean Michael C. Lu obtained his MS as a part of the Joint Medical Program whereas Lashof was dean of the varsity. “She was the most effective function mannequin an aspiring doctor might ever hope to have,” he stated. “Dean Lashof spent her profession in drugs and public well being combating for well being fairness and social justice, two enduring values which proceed to outline what our faculty stands for right now.”
“She was very outspoken about the way it was immoral, dangerous, mistaken, and horrible to have racial inequities in well being or class inequities in well being,” stated Dr. Nancy Krieger, famend professor of social epidemiology at Harvard College, who obtained her PhD at Berkeley whereas Lashof was dean and thought of her a mentor. “She was about countering victim-blaming analyses and seeing what social insurance policies want to alter.”
And he or she championed social justice in different methods, too. “When she was dean, we had been combating to get the College of California to divest in South Africa,” remembers Minkler. “We received near 200 school to put on caps and robes and stroll throughout the campus to cease in entrance of the chancellors’ workplace. She was the one dean there.”
Lashof was additionally instrumental within the founding of the Berkeley Wellness Letter, a groundbreaking publication that gives customers research-backed preventative well being recommendation, with a share of subscription funds supporting graduate college students.
After leaving Berkeley, Lashof went on to chair the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Gulf Battle Veterans’ Diseases and the Institute of Drugs Committee on Applied sciences for the Early Detection of Breast Most cancers. In 1995, she obtained the Sedgwick Memorial Medal for Distinguished Service in Public Well being from the American Public Well being Affiliation.
She continued to battle for justice till late in her life. In 2017, on the age of 91, she attended a protest in Alameda, California, carrying an indication that stated “Finish the Muslim Ban Now.”
Though Lashof had a powerhouse profession, what her former college students and colleagues bear in mind greatest about her is her heat persona, coupled together with her humble, pragmatic strategy.
“She was very heat as an individual,” stated Krieger. “She was capable of be each fierce in her positions and likewise very heat. The place she got here from was deeply believing in individuals’s basic dignity. She did it in a method that she had a humorousness, a deep sense of heat, and an extended monitor document of being engaged in progressive political work.”
“She was a visionary and instrumental in so lots of our careers,” stated Dr. Brenda Eskanazi, professor emerita at Berkeley Public Well being. “She shifted the tide for ladies at this college and I really feel I owe my profession to her. She was additionally an extremely heat, caring, and sort particular person however she knew when to be sturdy and agency to get what she thought was essential for the College—a terrific advocate.”
“She was only a nice function mannequin, each as an activist but additionally as a robust girl in a household relationship that labored,” stated her son, Dan Lashof, director of the World Sources Institute.
Her household fondly remembers group summer time holidays on Northern California’s Russian River and a detailed household bond that even led two of her grownup kids—with their spouses—to share a Berkeley home for a time.
“They’d hire homes for a few weeks that we might all convey our children to,” stated Carol Lashof. “They had been each superb about being the form of mother and father that you simply like hanging out with.”
Lashof’s ardour for social justice has infused the subsequent era of her household. Her son Dan is a lifelong local weather warrior; daughter Judith fought for homosexual rights…and taught adults to learn; and daughter Carol based a theater firm devoted to “telling unheard tales of gender and energy.” “That battle for justice has gone on to the subsequent era, every in its personal method,” stated Regas.
Dr. Lashof is survived by her daughter, Carol Lashof, Carol’s husband Invoice Newton, and their kids Elizabeth Sowerwine (Invoice) and Erica Newton; her son, Dan Lashof, and his spouse, Diane Regas, and their kids, Matt Lashof-Sullivan (Meg), and kids Cora and Jamie; Samuel Lashof; and Robin Lashof-Rigas (Maria Zimmerman); and her granddaughter Suma Lashof. She was predeceased by her daughter, Judith Lashof, and husband Richard Lashof.