Former dean Jacob Brody, national figure in public health, 1931-2014
Dr. Jacob A. Brody, professor emeritus and former dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, died April 22 in Chicago. He was 82.
Brody was a physician, researcher, epidemiologist and administrator for the U.S. Public Health Service and the National Institutes of Health. His government service included a year in Hiroshima as research coordinator for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission.
He came to UIC in 1985 to become dean of the School of Public Health. Under his leadership, in seven years the school doubled in size and increased its research funding 700 percent while building programs in HIV/AIDS, health disparities and aging populations.
Brody’s own research interests included measles and rubella vaccines, neurodegenerative diseases, the relationship between alcohol and chronic diseases, and the epidemiology of health and disease in aging populations.
“Jake Brody came to UIC after a long and distinguished career in epidemiology at NIH. He presided over the school at a critical juncture, overseeing a dramatic expansion of research efforts on some of the most critical public health issues,” said Paul Brandt-Rauf, dean of the UIC School of Public Health.
“He basically laid the sound foundation for the school’s current trajectory of growth that we are still reaping the benefits of today. Everyone at the School of Public Health — and everyone who has enjoyed a healthier life as a result of his works — owes him a great debt of gratitude and respect.”
Brody began his government service in 1957. His posts included two years in Panama as medical officer of the NIH’s Laboratory of Tropical Virology, Middle America Research Unit; six months in Russia as an exchange scientist to the Institute of Poliomyelitis and Virus Encephalitis; and three years in Alaska as chief of the U.S. Public Health Service’s epidemiology section at the Arctic Health Research Center.
He also held several positions at the NIH in Bethesda and Rockville, Maryland, including chief of the epidemiology branch collaborative and field research for the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke; chief of the epidemiological and special studies branch of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; and associate director for epidemiology in the demography and biometry program of the National Institute on Aging.
Brody received the Public Health Service’s Distinguished Service Medal in 1981 and the Abraham Lilienfeld Award in 2000 for outstanding contributions, leadership and research in epidemiology. He authored more than 250 scientific publications.
“Jacob’s public health career spanned an amazing array of disciplines. His research contributions were important and his impact extended beyond the elegant studies he performed to the creation of U.S. Government programs in neurology, alcoholism, and aging,” said Dr. Ronald Hershow, associate professor of epidemiology and director of epidemiology and biostatistics in the UIC School of Public Health. “I and other faculty members and students at UIC School of Public Health sought him out often for advice that was invariably sound, thoughtful, and kind. We have lost a public health giant and a great friend.”
Brody served on national and local boards and was a member of several professional societies, including the American Public Health Association and the American Epidemiology Society where he was president from 1980-1981.
In a 2008 interview, Brody said, “Being remembered for having contributed to the development of the field of epidemiology and creating and enabling many epidemiologists is something I cherish.”
Jacob Brody was born in Brooklyn, New York, and graduated cum laude from Williams College in 1952. He received his M.D. from State University of New York Downstate College of Medicine in 1956.
In prep school he excelled at track, and he remained a track and field enthusiast throughout his life. He also enjoyed scuba diving, photography, poetry, and audio books.
He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Ann Thomas Brody, son Thomas (Amy Huseth) Brody, daughter Eva (Scott) Fujino and five grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held May 4 at noon at the University Club of Chicago.
Donations can be made in his memory to the UIC School of Public Health, Office of Advancement, 1603 W. Taylor St. MC923, Chicago, IL 60613 or to the Horizon Hospice.