Leading Voices in Reproductive Health Honor Dr. Allan Rosenfield’s Life and Legacy

Emily Douglas

Reproductive and sexual health advocates around the world mourn the loss of Dr. Allan Rosenfield, former dean of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and a pioneer in the field of maternal health, family planning, and HIV/AIDS.

Reproductive and sexual health advocates around the world mourn the loss of Dr. Allan Rosenfield, former dean of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and a pioneer in the field of maternal health, family planning, and HIV/AIDS.  Rosenfield died Sunday morning of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Rosenfield’s research concentrated on maternal mortality in the developing world and on the spread of HIV/AIDS among mothers and children, and he focused his research and treatment work in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia.  Rosenfield was among the first to call for specific attention to maternal health rather than simply as an adjunct concern to children’s health, and to draw attention to the ethical imperative to offer HIV-positive mothers ongoing care and treatment for their HIV infection rather than simply antiretrovirals during pregnancy to prevent transmission to their newborns.

Rosenfield was honored at the International Women’s Health Coalition’s 2007 "Invest in Women" Gala, where he remarked that, "We still live in a world where it took a lecture at an international AIDS meeting, followed by an article in a medical journal, to persuade policymakers that women living with HIV/AIDS deserve HIV drugs in their own right, not just to prevent infection in their babies at birth."

Leading reproductive health advocates remember Dr. Allan Rosenfield.

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Writes Frances Kissling,

Ralph Waldo Emerson had Allan Rosenfield pegged: “To
laugh often and to win the respect of intelligent persons…to find what is
best in others; to give one’s self; to leave the world a little better
whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition.”
On his death we all sing of Allan’s accomplishments for women and
children, his tireless efforts to put women at the center of reproductive
health and the way in which he respected everyone, whatever views they held. Like
many others, I watched closely how Allan handled these last years with ALS as
in the end life is about relationships and what we can learn from each other
about how to make our way in this difficult world, and eventually how we will end
our days on earth.

Thank you Allan for what your last years taught us. You
lived them as you had always lived life. You went to work, raised money, advised
the powerful and helped everyone who asked for help.  

Countless stories will be told about Allan’s care for
others. Let me share mine. About a year into Allan’s ALS, I was diagnosed
with severe kidney disease and Allan took the time to help me find the right
doctors. As my disease progressed, I would regularly hear from Allan. Up to
about six months ago, the phone would ring around 10pm and it would be Allan
checking in on how I was doing! Even when speech became difficult, Allan
called. On his last call to me I hung up on him as I thought it was a wrong
number. He called back and we talked. Allan never gave up. And so Emerson’s
conclusion of the passage quoted above rings true: “ To have played and
laughed with enthusiasm, and sung with exultation: to know even one life has
breathed easier because you have lived – this is to have succeeded.

 

Dr. Sharon Camp, CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, wrote of Dr. Rosenfield:

Allan Rosenfield was a giant
in our field and his death feels almost like the end of an era. He led in so
many ways on so many issues. He was the only person ever to chair the boards of
both Planned Parenthood and the Guttmacher Institute. There will never be
another like him.

I’ll be adding more comments as I receive them.

Please add your own remembrances in the comments section!

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