Joyce C. Lashf, the doctor who broke the glass ceiling, has died at the age of 96

Dr. Joyce C. Lashf, who fought for health equality and became the first woman to head the state’s public health department and broke the deadlock as the first woman to become dean of the University of California’s School of Public Health, died on June 4 in a supportive community in Berkeley. He was 96 years old.

Her daughter, Carol Lashf, said she had heart failure.

In a long and varied career, friends and family members say, Dr. Lashf has always prioritized the fight for social justice. In the 1960s, he founded a community health center to provide medical services in a low-income department in Chicago. After his appointment as director of the Illinois Department of Public Health in 1973, the year of the Supreme Court’s decision of Rowe v. Wade codified the constitutional right to abortion. Lashf established a protocol to provide women with access to safe abortion in the state, said Dr. Carol Lashf.

In the 1980s, Dr. Lashf used his powers as a top university administrator to fight discrimination against AIDS victims and to organize anti-apartheid initiatives in South Africa.

He also championed social justice outside of his professional life, leading his family to so many marches for peace and civil rights in the 1960s that they saw the protests as a “family trip”, recalls his son Dan. Joan Beaz once performed in their living room in Chicago, the family said, to raise funds for an anti-segregation student non-violent coordination committee.

“From the beginning, her work in medicine and public health was deeply animated by her deep commitment to the issues of social justice in our society,” said Nancy Krieger, a professor of social epidemiology at Harvard who worked with Dr. Lashf on AIDS policy. A Berkeley graduate student in the 1980s. “These included racism issues, including social class issues, including gender issues.”

After a brief stint as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Federal Department of Health, Education and Welfare and Assistant Director of the Office of Technology Assessment, he was appointed to run the Berkeley School of Public Health in 1981. In that position, Dr. Krieger said he is not satisfied with limiting his opportunities in administrative work.

At the height of the AIDS epidemic in 1986, for example, he set his sights on defeating Proposition 64, a California ballot initiative led by the far-right political activist Lyndon Laruche, which would make public testing for AIDS mandatory and critics fear, the mass quarantine.

Dr. Lashf confirmed the collaboration of four public health schools in the University of California system to prepare a policy analysis on the initiative, which Dr. Krieger said was their first such joint project. The analysis, presented at the California State Assembly, demonstrates the potential detrimental effects of the measure, and Dr. Krieger said it contributed to its defeat.

Dr. Lashf’s friends say he actively communicated with a scientist’s mind. “It always wants to bring evidence to carry evidence of what problems caused the health inequality,” Dr. Krieger said.

Those efforts often began at the grassroots level. In 1967, Dr. Lashf opened the Mile Square Health Center in Chicago, then in the faculty of the University of Illinois College of Medicine, a community health clinic funded by the Federal Office of Equal Opportunity that provides medical care in a poor area. City.

“He was one of the key people in this country helping to get federal funding and functional community health centers,” Dr. Krieger said.

Mile Square Center, the second such community health center in the country, Mound Bay, Miss. H. Jack Geiger, if its founder, is nationally known.

“Joyce was often impressed, especially by men who were more charismatic at a time when sex was more common,” said Meredith Minkler, a professor of health and social behavior at Berkeley who worked with Dr. Lashf on social justice. Year “But he wasn’t worried about being in the limelight. He was concerned about making change.

Joyce Ruth Cohen was born in Philadelphia on March 27, 1926, the daughter of Harry Cohen, a certified public accountant whose parents were Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, and Rose (Brodsky) Cohen, a domestic worker born in Ukraine and a domestic worker. . Volunteers with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, helping to settle German Jewish refugees in the United States during and after World War II.

“His mother clearly instilled in him an ambition to play a full role in society,” said Dan Lashf. “She was interested in medicine from a young age and at one point said she wanted to be a nurse. Her mother said, ‘Well, if you’re going to be a nurse and do all that work, you can also be a doctor and be in charge.’

But after graduating with honors from Duke University in 1946, he found his way to the top undergraduate medical program blocked. Many at the time, according to the National Library of Medicine, were limiting the number of Jewish applicants they had accepted and were prioritizing the admission of men returning from armed service as soon as the war ended. She eventually earned a spot at Pennsylvania Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia.

He became a theoretical mathematician in 1950. He married Lashof. In the mid-1950s, she and her husband were both junior faculty members at the University of Chicago. In 1960, he again faced gender inequality when the chairman of the department refused to promote him.

“The chair told me she could not recommend a woman for a term-track appointment, especially a married woman, because she would undoubtedly follow her husband wherever he went,” Dr. Lashf said at a 1990 health conference. ‘est la vie’

Discouraged, he joined the faculty of the University of Illinois College of Medicine. There he was hired to guide the study of health needs, a project that led his work towards the development of community health centers.

In addition to his children, Dr. Lashf is survived by six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Her husband died in 2010. Their eldest daughter Judith Lashf died in 2018 of breast cancer.

In the early 1980’s, Dr. Lashf was wearing a cap and gown. Dr. Minkler said he was the only campus dean.

“He’ll get his neck out,” Dr. Minkler said. “It doesn’t matter who he has to cross.”

When he was 91, Dr. Lashf carried a sign that read, “Prohibit Muslims now.” At a rally in Almeida, California, citizens of five Muslim-majority countries protested against the Trump administration’s ban on travel to the United States.

Towards the end of his life, Carol Lashf said, Dr. Lashf was pleased to see so many advances in social justice over the years. But in recent months, he has been shocked to hear that the Supreme Court is considering dismissing Rowe v. Wade.

“He was absolutely amazed,” Carol Lashf said. “He just looked at me and said, ‘How can that be?'”

Many of Dr. Lashf’s achievements were even more significant because she was a woman.

“Breaking countless glass ceilings was important in his career,” Dr. Minkler said, “and it was one of his most important legacies.”

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