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Updated 10:00 AM April 10, 2006




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Dr. Ian Higgins

Dr. Ian Thomas Twistington Higgins, professor emeritus of epidemiology, and environmental and industrial health, died March 26 at home in California. He was 87.
(Photo courtesy Higgins Family)

Higgins was an international expert in epidemiology of chronic respiratory diseases, cancer and other ailments stemming from occupational and environmental exposures, including cigarette smoking.

He was born in Edinborough, Scotland, and educated in England at Gresham's College and the London Hospital. He was elected to fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians, American Epidemiology Society, American College of Epidemiology and the Epidemiology Council of the American Heart Association.

Higgins devoted much of his career to improving the health and well being of miners, industrial workers, schoolchildren and the elderly. His research included studies of chronic respiratory disease, coronary heart disease in coal-mining communities in West Virginia, the effects of taconite dust exposure on the health of employees of a Minnesota mining company, and the effects of pollution on the pulmonary function of schoolchildren.

Before emigrating to the United States in 1963 Higgins held appointments in internal medicine, pediatrics and diseases of the chest in hospitals in the United Kingdom. In 1953 he joined the scientific staff of the Medical Research Council Pneumoconiosis Research Unit in Wales, and was assistant director of the Epidemiologic Research Unit. In 1963 he was appointed professor of chronic disease epidemiology in the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh, where he initiated a short course in epidemiological methods for chronic disease for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Higgins joined the School of Public Health in 1967 and for a time he directed the Adult Health and Aging Program. He was instrumental in expanding the curriculum to include courses in cancer, and environmental and occupational epidemiology. Colleagues recall the wealth of material and depth of experience he brought to his teaching and the humor with which he "salted" his lectures. He served on committees of the National Academy of Sciences, National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association and the American Lung Association. Higgins retired from the University in 1985.

Following his retirement, Higgins served as director of epidemiology at the American Health Foundation in New York and engaged in private consulting practice from his home in Bethesda, Md.

Higgins is survived by his wife, Dr. Millicent Higgins, professor emeritus of epidemiology and internal medicine; sons, John and Paul; brothers and sisters; a granddaughter and daughters-in-law. A reception in his memory will be from 4-6 p.m. April 15 at 252 Indian River Place in Ann Arbor.

Contributions in his memory may be made to the Epidemiology Research (Higashi) Fund or the Arboretum-Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

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