CSOM Mourns Loss of Professor Emeritus

Dr. Jack Geiger

Dr. Geiger was the founding Chair of the Department of Community Health and Social Medicine (CHASM), which he chaired from 1978 until his retirement in 1996. Dr. Geiger established our School’s community health agenda through the development of a series of courses that would become the educational foundation of the mission of CSOM. His educational vision was influenced by his already accomplished career.  

He designed the Community Health Center (CHC) model in the United States by establishing two clinics in the 1960s: one in Boston’s Columbia Point District and the other in the Mississippi Delta. Today, CHCs constitute a national health center network of more than 1,200 urban, rural, and migrant centers around the country that provide high quality health care to more than 23 million people and continue to combine community-oriented primary care, public health interventions, and civil rights and community empowerment and development initiatives. 

Dr. Geiger's CHC vision was greatly influenced by his work in South Africa during his senior year in medical school, where he worked at a Zulu health center and a public housing project near Durban (Lamontville). There he learned about the modern community health center model and the root discipline of community-oriented primary care from the parents of these models:  Sidney and Emily Kark. Together, they developed CHCs to serve rural and urban Africans, Indians, and poor white communities, both English-speaking and Afrikaans-speaking.


In 1965, Dr. Geiger provided medical care for civil rights workers during the civil rights protests in Selma, AL, and other southern cities. He and other physicians from across the country formed the Medical Committee for Human Rights and went to Mississippi to provide medical care support for the indigenous civil rights workers. He was known for many out-of-the-box strategies to improve health and frequently spoke about surprising government officials in the Mississippi Delta by writing prescriptions for food. “What’s wrong with that?” he said, “the last time I looked in my medical textbook, the most effective therapy for malnutrition is food.”

Dr. Geiger was co-founder of the Congress of Racial Equality, and served as civil liberties chairman of the American Veterans Committee.  He was also a founding member and past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985, and of Physicians for Human Rights, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998.  His work earned him numerous honors and honorary degrees, including election to Senior Membership in the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Public Health Association's Sedgewick Memorial Medal for Distinguished Service in Public Health. And in May 2020, he was presented with the CUNY School of Medicine's Inaugural Icon Award for his lifelong commitment to human rights, social justice, and access to quality healthcare for the most vulnerable populations. 

Dr. Geiger is survived by his wife, Nicole Schupf - an internationally recognized epidemiologist, stepson David Shadrack Smith, and two step-grandsons.  We extend our condolences to Nicole, David and extended family.  The CUNY School of Medicine has been vastly enriched by Dr. Geiger's vision, passion and legacy.  He will be greatly missed.    


An obituary may be found at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/28/health/h-jack-geiger-dead.html