In memoriam: H. Jack Geiger, Professor Emeritus CUNY School of Medicine and community health pioneer

The City College of New York is mourning the passing of H. Jack Geiger, Professor Emeritus and a founding faculty member of the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education at CCNY that became part of the CUNY School of Medicine (CSOM). He was 95.

The New York Times has hailed Dr. Geiger for using medicine to tackle poverty, racism and the threat of nuclear destruction. Two groups he helped start won Nobel Peace Prizes.

“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,” said Erica Friedman, MD, Interim Dean, CSOM. “He established our School’s focus on community health through the development of a series of population health courses that became the educational foundation of the mission of CSOM. His commitment to social justice and human rights was the foundation of his educational vision for the Sophie Davis program and the CUNY School of Medicine.”

Dr. Geiger 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. 

In 1965, Dr. Geiger provided medical care for civil rights workers during the civil rights protests in Selma, Alabama, 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 and support for the indigenous civil rights workers. 

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. In May 2020, at CSOM’s first medical school graduation, 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. 

The CUNY School of Medicine has been vastly enriched by Dr. Geiger's vision, passion and legacy. He will be greatly missed,” said Friedman.

About the City College of New York
Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided a high-quality and affordable education to generations of New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. CCNY embraces its position at the forefront of social change. It is ranked #1 by the Harvard-based Opportunity Insights out of 369 selective public colleges in the United States on the overall mobility index. This measure reflects both access and outcomes, representing the likelihood that a student at CCNY can move up two or more income quintiles. In addition, the Center for World University Rankings places CCNY in the top 1.8% of universities worldwide in terms of academic excellence. Labor analytics firm Emsi puts at $1.9 billion CCNY’s annual economic impact on the regional economy (5 boroughs and 5 adjacent counties) and quantifies the “for dollar” return on investment to students, taxpayers and society. At City College, more than 16,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in eight schools and divisions, driven by significant funded research, creativity and scholarship. CCNY is as diverse, dynamic and visionary as New York City itself. View CCNY Media Kit.


Jay Mwamba
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