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Allan Rosenfield, MD, PHR Board Member, Passes Away

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights Board Member Allan G. Rosenfield, MD, of Hartsdale, New York, passed away at his home on October 12, 2008. Dr. Rosenfield, 75, a public health leader, renowned professor of obstetrics and gynecology and a forceful and visionary advocate for women's health and human rights had suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and myasthenia gravis. A memorial service was held on Monday, October 13.

"Allan dedicated his career to women's reproductive health and human rights," said PHR CEO Frank Donaghue. "His involvement with PHR, as an advisor to our Health Action AIDS Campaign, reflected his concern for mother and child health programs in the US, Africa, and Asia. We will all miss our dear friend and colleague."

"Allan was a warm and generous person, and a talented physician and educator who used his position to influence policymakers to provide more resources to the global fight to reduce maternal mortality," said PHR Deputy Director Susannah Sirkin. "His pioneering program to save mothers as well as children from HIV-AIDS has brought comprehensive health care to more than 500,000 women and infants. While his death is a great loss to the causes of public health and human rights, his life until his very last days serves as a deep inspiration to our community."

Allan G. Rosenfield was born on April 28, 1933, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Bea and Harold Rosenfield, MD. Dr. Rosenfield received his Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Harvard College in 1955 and his MD from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1959. His internship and one year of general surgical residency was completed at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, followed by two years of service in the US Air Force. He then entered the obstetrics and gynecology residency program at Harvard's Boston Lying-in/Free Hospital for Women program in Boston (now the Brigham and Women's Hospital).

In 1975, Dr. Rosenfield joined Columbia University as professor of Obstetrics-Gynecology and Public Health, founding director of the Center for Population and Family Health, and director of ambulatory care for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. From 1984 to 1986, he served as acting chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. From 1986 to 2008 he was Dean of Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, DeLamar Professor of Public Health and Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology. After stepping down as Dean, he remained at the Mailman School as a Professor.

In 1985 he published, with Deborah Maine, a call to action for maternal and child health in The Lancet. The article highlighted multitudes of women worldwide who die in pregnancy and childbirth. The cause of maternal and child health animated his work for the next two decades. In a 2007 speech to the International Women's Health Coalition, Dr. Rosenfield spoke movingly of his personal dedication to the ongoing struggle to realize women's right to health:

"Tragically, and for me personally, this is most discouraging: over half a million women still die each year from the complications of pregnancy and childbirth, a majority of them in low-income countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. We still live in a world where it took a lecture at an international AIDS meeting, followed by an article in a medical journal, to persuade policymakers that women living with HIV/AIDS deserve HIV drugs in their own right, not just to prevent infection in their babies at birth. And today, this is still a world where rape is a weapon of war… and violence against women is epidemic."

Dr. Rosenfield has been active in a number of scientific and professional organizations. Dr. Rosenfield joined PHR's Health Action AIDS Advisory Committee in 2002 and the PHR Board of Directors in 2007, remaining active and engaged virtually until his death.

He was a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and chair of the Program Board of The Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR). He has served as president of the New York Obstetrical Society, chair of the Association of Schools of Public Health, chair of the Executive Board of the American Public Health Association, and chair of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee of WHO's Human Reproduction Programme. In addition, Dr. Rosenfield was a founder of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.

Dr. Rosenfield's research, teaching and advocacy were world renowned. As a result, he has received many honorary awards from many organizations, such as the New York Academy of Medicine's Stephen Smith Award for Lifetime Achievement in Public Health; Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health's Kenneth J. Ryan, MD Physician Leadership Award; National Association of People with AIDS Award; Doctors of the World (USA) Health and Human Rights Leadership Award; American Legacy Foundation's first Legacy Leadership Award for Extraordinary Leadership in Public Health; the Coalition for School-Based Primary Care's inaugural Public Health Leadership Award; and the reproductive health movement's highest award, Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Margaret Sanger Award.

He has written extensively (with over 140 published articles) on domestic and international issues in the fields of population, women's reproductive health, maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, human rights and health policy and developed major global initiatives on maternal mortality, reproductive health, women's health and HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Rosenfield is survived by his wife, Clare, of Hartsdale; his son Paul, of Riverdale, New York; his brother Jim, of New York, New York; his daughter Jill, of Brookline, Massachusetts; and five grandchildren. The family asks that donations be sent to the Allan Rosenfield Fund, Mailman School of Public Health, 722 W. 168th St., 14th Fl, NY, NY 10032. Attention: Linda P. Fried, Dean.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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