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Heroes of Public Health

Abraham Lilienfeld, MD, MPH

Abraham Lilienfeld

Abraham Lilienfeld's work was so extensive that he is known as the "father of contemporary chronic disease epidemiology." The knowledge he contributed to areas of cancer, cerebrovascular disease, digestive diseases and birth defects could be the summation of many lifetimes of work. He also was a major contributor to the surgeon general's report that established tobacco smoking as a serious threat to health.

The inscription from one of Dr. Lilienfeld's most prestigious prizes captures the magnitude of one man's quest to improve the health of the public: "Abraham M. Lilienfeld has dedicated his career to the transformation of epidemiology from a discipline limited to infectious diseases to one concerned with all diseases that afflict mankind. He has been at the forefront of the movement which established chronic disease epidemiology as an important branch of medicine and public health…The chronic diseases are our most important health problems. Dr. Lilienfeld stands in the front rank of those dedicated to their conquest." (The Bronfman Prize for Public Health Achievement November 14, 1968.)

Remembered for his vibrant, lucid teaching style, Dr. Lilienfeld's students and colleagues recall his "singular lack of self-interest, great willingness to help others, and tireless devotion to the advancement of public health science.