Frederick L. Dunn

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1928 - 2014
Frederick L. Dunn, MD, PhD, a physician and educator who pioneered the fusion of epidemiology and anthropology in global heath efforts, died peacefully at his home in San Francisco on Saturday, May 24, 2014, after a long illness. He was eighty-five.

Born December 24, 1928 in Seneca Falls, New York, to Dr. William Harold Dunn and Lora Lester Dunn, Dr. Dunn grew up in New York City and attended Phillips Exeter Academy, Harvard College and Harvard Medical School. At Harvard he was a leading member of the Harvard Mountaineering Club, eventually contributing dozens of articles to mountaineering journals on climbs ranging from the Canadian Rockies to the Himalaya. In 1953 he married Alice W. Roberts, with whom he had two children. They divorced in 1968; he remarried in 1968, was divorced again in 1985, and married Evelyn F. Barlow in 1986.

Dunn's introduction to field epidemiology came through mountaineering. In 1955, he served as the team physician for the American Himalayan Expedition in the Karakorum Range of northern Pakistan. While approaching the high country through the remote Hushe Valley, Dunn treated local villagers who suffered greatly from infectious eye diseases. This first encounter with developing-world epidemics had a powerful impact on him, convincing him of the importance of public health control measures in remote populations.

In 1957 Dunn joined the newly formed Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), a forerunner of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While attending to epidemics of influenza in Louisiana, smallpox in East Pakistan, and malaria and other parasitical diseases in the Malay peninsula, Dunn researched and offered prescriptions associating infectious disease with human behavioral, cultural, economic and ecological factors. In 1973 he received a PhD in anthropology from the University of Malaya. At the World Health Organization (WHO) in the 1970s, Dunn helped develop and champion the now-standard "sociomedical" model of disease research and prevention, calling for close collaboration between anthropologists and epidemiologists, as well as the mobilization of local community activists in preventing and treating disease.

Dunn was for many years on the medical faculty of the University of California, San Francisco, teaching epidemiology and medical anthropology. He was a founding faculty member of the nation's first formal medical anthropology program, a joint venture between UCSF and UC Berkeley. He was an active member of the editorial board of the University of California Press during the 1980s and 1990s. An enthusiastic athlete, Dunn was a runner well into retirement, participating in numerous marathons, and completed the 100-mile, one-day Western States Endurance Run over the Sierra Nevada in 1981.

He is survived by his wife, Evelyn F. Barlow; a sister, Cynthia D. Fleming of Boston, Massachusetts; and two children, Alice W. Dunn of Lexington, Massachusetts, and Eric C. W. Dunn of Palo Alto, California; and four grandchildren.
Published on NYTimes.com from June 2 to June 3, 2014