ResourcesPress Release

Physicians for Human Rights Welcomes New Interim Executive Director

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today announces that Gerson H. Smoger, JD, PhD is becoming our interim executive director, effective as of December 1, 2022.  Smoger is a leading public interest and human rights advocate with decades of litigation and advocacy experience who will provide leadership and management for the organization and PHR’s global network of clinician-advocates. 

Smoger also currently serves as the Chair of PHR’s Board of Directors and on PHR’s Advisory Council, as well as on the board of the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley and as a Commissioner on the IAS-Lancet Commission on Health and Human Rights. Both the Board and the Advisory Council include some of the world’s leading medical, legal, and scientific minds who provide strategy, guidance, and oversight to PHR.

“PHR will benefit immensely from Gerson Smoger’s leadership, strategic vision, and global network,” said Robert S. Lawrence, MD, founding member of PHR and board member emeritus. “With his deep expertise and experience in both public interest law and human rights, PHR will deepen its impacts and engagement in the months ahead. Smoger will support PHR in its mission to document atrocities, promote accountability, and build a global movement of clinicians who safeguard human rights. The need for health professionals to defend human rights in the United States and around the globe has never been greater. With Smoger’s leadership, PHR is poised to deliver results for survivors and our partners around the world,” said Dr. Lawrence.

“We also extend our deepest appreciation to outgoing interim executive director Joel Lamstein, who provided leadership, nonprofit management skills, and global health expertise to PHR,” said Dr. Lawrence. “Joel Lamstein completed his five-month tenure as Interim Executive Director after graciously coming out of his retirement from John Snow Institute, which he co-founded. We thank him for his service to PHR and to the human rights and public health movement.”

Smoger is a principal of the law firm Smoger and Associates. He has received the Public Justice Foundation’s national Trial Lawyer of the Year Award for his work fighting for the lead-contaminated children of Herculaneum, the location of North America’s largest lead smelter. As an appellate attorney, he has often worked at the intersection between law and medicine, including filing U.S. Supreme Court briefs on behalf of PHR, the New England Journal of Medicine, the American Medical Association, and a variety of U.S. Senators. He also serves on the boards of Public Citizen, Public Justice (as a past president), and the Civil Justice Research Initiative. Smoger is immediate past president of the National Civil Justice Institute. He earned his B.A. from Lycoming College (summa cum laude), Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (with distinction), and J.D. from Berkeley Law and is a member of the bars of Texas and California.

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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