Dr. Myron Ezra Wegman
"Myron Wegman was an inspiration for literally thousands of people around the world," says SPH Dean Noreen Clark. "He left a tremendous legacy at the School of Public Health. Under his direction, research flourished, he built a new building, the curriculum was strengthened and the international presence of Michigan was greatly amplified."
Born in Brooklyn on July 23, 1908, Wegman earned his bachelor of arts degree at the City College of New York (CCNY), his doctor of medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine, and his master of public health at Johns Hopkins University. His career in pediatrics and international health spanned seven decades and included periods as a full-time clinical pediatrician, as well as more than 50 years of full-time work in public health, including 14 years as dean of SPH.
During his tenure as dean and professor of public health from 1960-74, Wegman led the school through a period of significant expansion to become one of the leading schools of public health in the world. Throughout his deanship he taught courses in international health and, in conjunction with his appointment to the Medical School faculty in 1961, held rounds for medical students and pediatric residents.
In 1974 he returned to the full-time SPH faculty, where he served until 1978. During this time, he strengthened the school's work in international health and provided leadership to a schoolwide program in preventive medicine and public health.
Following his retirement in 1978, Wegman continued to teach at the school and to be active in public health work at the local, state, national and international levels.
He published more than 200 articles, from basic work in pediatrics to articles focused on the fundamental problems of health policy and administration. At Dr. Benjamin Spock's request, Wegman read and commented on the original manuscript of "The Common Sense Guide to Baby and Child Care." Wegman's efforts have been acknowledged in every subsequent edition of the book. In 1997, Wegman reluctantly gave up publishing the Annual Summary of Vital Statistics in Pediatrics, a task he had undertaken yearly since 1949.
Wegman began his career as a pediatric consultant in Maryland. He went on to serve with the New York City Health Department and spent eight years at the Pan American Sanitary Bureau (now the Pan American Health Organization), Regional Office of the World Health Organization, the last three years as secretary general.
His academic career included appointments at the Yale University School of Medicine, the Johns Hopkins Schools of Hygiene and Medicine, Cornell University School of Medicine, Columbia University School of Public Health, and the School of Tropical Medicine of the University of Puerto Rico.
He also served as chair and professor of pediatrics of the Louisiana State University School of Medicine. A member of several medical and professional organizations, Wegman was president of the American Public Health Association during the association's centennial year in 1972.
In 1967, he was awarded the Bronfman Prize for excellence in public health by the American Public Health Association, and in 1974 he received the Sedgwick Medal for distinguished service in public health.
Among his many other honors, Wegman was CCNY Class of 1928 Man of the Year and received CCNY's Townsend Harris Medal for outstanding accomplishments. In the 1990s, he and his brothers established a professorship at CCNY for the development of outstanding young faculty.
Former U.S. Surgeon General William Stewart once described Wegman as "the sports car version of a professorzero to 65 miles an hour in 6.7 seconds." In an interview on the occasion of his 90th birthday, Wegman offered this advice to public health students: "There's as much satisfaction in preventing death and disability in large numbers of people as there is in the drama of curing a single ill person."
Wegman is survived by his children David (Peggy) Wegman and Jane (David) Dunatchik; a younger brother, Edwin (Toby); grandchildren Laura Johnson, Jesse and Marya Wegman, Katrina Boulding, and Ryan Petersen; and great grandchildren Mark, Angela and Kelly. His wife of 60 years, Isabel, and his daughters Judy (John) Hirst and Betty (Ralph) Petersen, preceded him in death.
A memorial celebration is planned for this spring. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Myron and Isabel Wegman Scholarship Fund at SPH, 109 South Observatory St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029.