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WHITE Dr. KERR LACHLAN WHITE Kerr Lachlan White died on July 22, 2014, at Westminister Canterbury of the Blue Ridge. He had lived in the Charlottesville area since 1984 following retirement from the Rockefeller Foundation. Prior to that he had been professor and founding chair of what is now the Department of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins University. Educated in economics and medicine at McGill University, Montreal, he completed graduate work in economics at Yale University and in statistics and epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He trained in internal medicine at Dartmouth's Hitchcock Clinic and Hospital and the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. For almost ten years he taught, practiced and conducted research in the Department of Medicine at the University of North Carolina with special emphasis on primary medical care, a term he and colleagues introduced in 1961. For some fifty years as an originator of what became known as Health Services Research, White investigated the problems of organizing, managing, financing, and evaluating health services in the United States and abroad. Many graduates of his department are now leaders in this field. The application of epidemiological and statistical concepts to understanding these problems was a continuing commitment, as was his deep concern with the influence of emotional and social factors on health, disease and treatments of all modalities. While at the Rockefeller Foundation White was responsible for establishing the International Clinical Epidemiology Network (INCLEN) with five sites in the United States, Canada and Australia that to date have trained over 1,400 young medical school faculty who now staff Clinical Research Units in over 80 medical schools in 33 countries including sites in Africa, China, Europe, India, Latin America and Southeast Asia. From 1963 to 1976 he chaired the seven-country World Health Organization International Collaborative Study of Medical Care Utilization. White was a trustee of Case Western Reserve University and the Foundation for Child Development and a member of the Technical Board of the Milbank Memorial Fund, the Visiting Committee of the Harvard School of Public Health and the Advisory Committees on Population Health of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and on Medical Research of the Pan American Health Organization. He was a long-time member as well as Council Member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and a council member and president of the International Epidemiological Association. He was a chair of the U.S. National Committee on Health and Vital Statistics where he was instrumental in several initiatives including the annual publication of Health: United States and the on-going National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. He chaired the NIH Health Services Research Study Section and the President's Science Advisory Committee's Panel on Health Services Research. He served on the editorial boards of Medical Care, the International Journal of Health Services and Inquiry and was instrumental in founding the journal Health Services Research. Over the years, he was a consultant to the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNDP, the World Bank, and national and provincial governments of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Philippines, and the People's Republic of China. He was the author or co-author of 250 publications, including ten books, in the fields of epidemiology, health services, health statistics, primary care, public health and medical education. White received numerous domestic and foreign honors, fellowships, and degrees. His extensive collection of books, reports, manuscripts and related matters is housed as a special Health Care Collection in the Historical Division of the University of Virginia's Health Sciences Library and is accessible on the Internet. White was born in Winnipeg on January 23, 1917 and grew up in Ottawa, Canada. He is survived by his daughters, Susan of Charlottesville and Margot, of Los Angeles, California and his grandson, Jason, also of Los Angeles, California. His wife, Isabel, died in 2000, a brother, Ian P. Stevenson, died in 2007 and a sister, Edith Meisner died in 2011. Services will be private. Those desiring to do so may send a donation to Region Ten, 800 Preston Avenue, Charlottesville, VA 22903. Friends may sign the guestbook at

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Published in The Washington Post on Jul. 25, 2014.
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Memories & Condolences
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16 entries
August 29, 2014
He was a hero of mine for decades, from medical school through decades of Primary Care Internal Medicine. I was honored to have him on my email contact list, sending him gems that others shared with me. Today, when it said that an email that I shared with others was not received by him, I googled him and learned of his death.

My sincere sympathies and condolences to his family.

Who gets the Lassie dog?

Ron Banner, MD (
August 6, 2014
My condolences to Dr Kerr White's family. You have my deepest sympathy.
Eustacio de la Roche
August 6, 2014
So sad to hear of the passing of Kerr L White, a true HealthResearch pioneer, mentor,friend I owe so much to him & his generous leadership!
August 5, 2014
I grew up thinking that a life in medicine was about "knowing" and making declarative statements. Among many other lessons, Kerr White taught me in the early days of North American practice-based research that understanding in research (and life) comes more from getting the questions right. Among his many lessons and one-liners, "Research is not as much about finding answers as it is about correctly identifying sources of bias and error."
His heart was as large as his remarkable intelligence and his concern for the health of the world's inhabitants always shown through his sometimes gruff exterior. Kerr's ability to be simultaneously tough and caring remains unmatched in my 40 years in Family Medicine. Perhaps most of all, through his insight and wit I learned much about myself, my limitations and potential. I'm confident that his life and contributions will continue to inspire good work here on earth and, who knows, perhaps beyond.
Frank M Reed
August 5, 2014
I was blessed to be at the same table as Kerr in the fledgling years of ASPN. He taught us the value of preparation (piloting) before launching a study...and so much more. I cherished this lovely gentleman's friendship and encouragement more than he will ever know. Love to you, Kerr.
Linda Niebauer
August 5, 2014
My deepest condolences to Kerr White's Family. Kerr was a giant in so many fields - epidemiology, health services research, primary care, national and international health information policy and classifications and uniform health data sets. He was a mentor and friend to several generations of students and colleagues whom he inspired and guided over a lifetime. I also am honored to have been one of them. He keenly understood the multiple influences on health and always challenged us to do better in improving health. His legacy and his memory are a blessing.
Marjorie Greenberg
August 4, 2014
Amidst his many endeavors, Kerr propelled the North American Primary Care Research Group (NAPCRG) and primary care practice based research networks forward--when there was little interest in them. I met him at NAPCRG and represent another "student" he had time for. He helped me find my way into a career, as no one else. I treasure papers he wrote and notes he wrote to me, sometimes on margins and sometimes very blunt, "There is no way this is going anywhere--I suggest you start over." He provided Rockefeller funding grants in aid ($25,000/yr for three years) to launch the US's first national PBRN (The Ambulatory Sentinel Practice Network) and sat on its founding board for years, adamantly expecting progress and excellence. He was a master of the aphorism to teach, and one that comes to mind at the conclusion of his life is, "Everything takes---longer." Indeed, his devotion to learning and developing proper health care for all people will "take longer" to realize, requiring his "professional heirs" to relentlessly continue the quest he defined so clearly.
Larry A. Green
August 1, 2014
" I first met Kerr in London in 1963 and then on arrival in the US in 1969 when I visited Johns Hopkins to see him. Over the rest of his life he became my close mentor and best friend and was the architect of my academic career both in the UK and US. I am deeply grateful for and honored by his friendship.
Maurice Wood MD. FRCGP FAAFP . Nellysford VA.
Maurice Wood
August 1, 2014
Kerr White was a famous man but he found time to help a student rewrite sentence by sentence his paper so that it could be published. Kerr White was a busy man but that did not stop him from holding one on one sessions with a student to debate the future of health services research. Kerr White was both famous and busy but he still had time to help a student find a job. Kerr White believed that improving the health of people was the most important activity that a person should attempt to accomplish. Kerr your students have not finished the job but we are all still trying. With lots of love-- Bob brook
Robert Brook
July 30, 2014
My wife, the late Dr, Barbara Starfield, was one of Kerr's first faculty appointments at Hopkins. She was forever grateful to Kerr for taking her on board and mentoring her. In doing so, he also demonstrated his understanding of the importance of advancing women in medicine long before this became popular. Barbara was a staunch advocate for primary care, a concept that Kerr greatly expanded, and through her entire career paid homage to his giant role.
Nail A. (Tony) Holtzman, M.D., M.P.HJ.
July 27, 2014
Karen Davis
July 27, 2014
Kerr founded the field of health services research and the Department of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He will be long remembered.
Karen Davis
July 26, 2014
Your charisma drew students to a new field. I am incredibly thankful that I followed that lead to a most rewarding career, which you made possible.
Marie McCormick
July 26, 2014
To an extraordinary leader and founder of a new field, your former students will always be grateful
Bob Blendon
July 26, 2014
Kerr had more influence on my career than any other person in my life. Having arrived at Hopkins at a real crossroad, he was such an inspiration to study and improve the healthcare system. For 45 years I never forgot his teachings and mentor-ship. He will always be in my memory.
Clif Gaus
July 25, 2014
My mentor, friend and advocate: Kerr's contributions, leadership, insights and personal friendship will live on and on.
Robert E. Reynolds MD DrPH
Professor Emeritus and Former Vice President
University of Virginia
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