Edyth Hull Schoenrich, MD, MPH ’71
1919 – 2020
Edyth Hull Schoenrich, MD, MPH ’71, a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, died Saturday, September 12, 2020, at age 101. A vital part of Johns Hopkins for more than 50 years, she shaped the Bloomberg School in profound ways.
Dr. Schoenrich, a pioneer in preventive medicine, was known for her work at the local and state levels to improve the quality and accessibility of care for the poorest and sickest chronic disease patients. In her seventy-plus years with Johns Hopkins, she held faculty and leadership positions in both the School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health. In 1977, Dr. Schoenrich became the first female associate dean at Johns Hopkins University when the Bloomberg School named her associate dean for Academic Affairs.
“Edyth was, simply put, a force of nature,” said Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75, the current dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “She embodied the mission of the School and committed her life to improving health and saving lives. Central to this commitment was the training of the next generation of public health professionals. She shaped so many lives in a very real and personal way—including my own.”
Dean MacKenzie remembers visiting Dr. Schoenrich a couple of years ago to get her thoughts about a draft of the School’s strategic plan. “She complimented us on all the ‘flowery language,’ but pleaded with me not to forget that it ultimately comes down to getting things done that will make a real difference to people’s lives. Those words stuck with me and guide me in charting our course for the future.”
An avid hot-air balloonist who loved floating above the Loire Valley and amongst the Swiss Alps, Edyth was dedicated to helping her students reach new heights. She summed up her advice to students in a 2005 School magazine article: “You don’t have to plan out your whole working life from beginning to end. Just start out doing your thing. Even if you don’t know where you’ll end up, you can have an exciting life. But never lose sight of your values. You should have a purpose, a passion that drives you.”
She found her passion early on. As one of only three female students in her class, she earned an MD from the University of Chicago in 1947, then completed an internal medicine internship and residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1948 to 1952, serving as chief resident in her final year.
Dr. Schoenrich joined the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1953. After she began working in outpatient clinics, she realized that the hospitalized patients she had been treating “had had their disease processes creeping up on them for years before I saw them in crisis, and they were going to live with the consequences of these disease processes for the rest of their lives, whether they were going to live two more days or another 20 years.”
On the staff of Baltimore City Hospital, she became one of the earliest advocates of comprehensive care for severely ill patients with long hospitalizations. In 1964, while working at the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, she began teaching at what is now the Bloomberg School.
From 1969 to 1971, Dr. Schoenrich was one of the School’s first part-time MPH students, riding the bus to classes from her downtown office and logging nights and holidays to maintain her full-time position as director of Maryland’s Bureau of Chronic Diseases. According to Marie Diener-West, PhD ’84, chair of the MPH Program, “Edyth was the impetus for our part-time MPH Program and was an absolute inspiration to all of us in her passion for public health and accomplishments. But, above all, she was truly beloved for her unmistakable interest and concern for each and every student, staff, and faculty member.”
Edyth first joined the School in 1964 as an associate and was named a full professor in 1974 in what is now the School’s Department of Health Policy and Management, where she directed the Division of Public Health Administration. She was only the seventh woman in the School’s history to be appointed full professor.
Dean D.A. Henderson named Dr. Schoenrich associate dean for Academic Affairs in 1977. Over the next nine years, she modernized the School’s educational programs, increased students’ clinical and practice experience, and spearheaded the transformation of the General Preventive Medicine Residency.
She capped her remarkable career by directing the part-time professional programs and serving as associate chair of the MPH Program from 1986 until 2018. Drawing on her personal experience, she helped design flexible graduate programs for working professionals.
Edyth Hull Schoenrich was born September 9, 1919, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Edwin John Hull and Maud Mabel (Kelly) Hull. She earned a BA in 1941 from Duke University and did graduate work there in psychology. As one of only three female students in her medical school class of 75, she earned an MD from the University of Chicago in 1947, then completed an internal medicine internship and residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1948 to 1952, serving as chief resident in her final year.
An elected fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Preventive Medicine, Dr. Schoenrich was inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame in 2005 and also held leadership roles in the American Public Health Association, American Hospital Association, and at MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society. Her numerous honors from Johns Hopkins include the Ernest Lyman Stebbins Medal and the Golden Apple teaching award. The Bloomberg School established the Edyth Schoenrich Professorship in Preventive Medicine and the Edyth Schoenrich Scholarship to honor her work and legacy.
Dr. Schoenrich was married for 60 years to Carlos Schoenrich, whom she met while they were graduate students studying psychology at Duke University. Edyth is survived by her two children, Lola Schoenrich and Olaf Schoenrich.
We offer our deepest condolences to Edyth’s family, friends, and colleagues. The School is organizing a tribute to Edyth and her legacy.
If you would like to honor her memory, please donate online or by check to the Edyth Schoenrich Scholarship. You may send remembrances to her family at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you, Edyth, for a life well lived. You will be missed but always remembered.