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Remembering David A. Hamburg, IOM President 1975-1980

April 23, 2019

The National Academy of Medicine notes with sadness the passing of David A. Hamburg on April 21, 2019. David served as president of the Institute of Medicine from 1975 to 1980. His death is a tremendous loss for the NAM and the National Academies.

As president of the IOM during its first decade of operation, David was instrumental in clarifying the role and focus areas of the organization. He laid the groundwork for productive relationships with Congress and federal agencies that remain fruitful to this day. Philip Handler, then president of the National Academy of Sciences, provided the following tribute to David at the conclusion of his term: “Under your leadership, the Institute of Medicine has been brought to maturity. It has earned a place in the Washington scene and become the instrument to which we aspired when it was created. Our country has yet a long way to go in the development of an accepted philosophy which will enable us to frame a consistent national health policy. Thanks to you, I am confident that the Institute of Medicine will make cardinal contributions to that process. We have enjoyed your boundless good humor, basked in the warmth of your compassion, and been stimulated by the keenness of your intellect. All of us are richer for your stay among us.”

A psychiatrist who served as chair of the department of psychiatry at Stanford University from 1961 to 1975, David had a lifelong commitment to global health, human rights, and the prevention of violence. As head of the Carnegie Corporation of New York from 1982 to 1997, he focused on improving educational outcomes for children in the United States and launched initiatives to prevent war and genocide. In 1996, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contributions to “understanding human behavior, preventing violent conflict, and improving the health and well-being of our children.”

Throughout his long career, David was a member of the U.S. Defense Policy Board, a member of President Clinton’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, a founding advisor to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and chair of two United Nations and European Union committees on the prevention of genocide, among many other distinguished appointments. He also served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a position now held by his daughter, NAM Foreign Secretary Peggy Hamburg.

David was the author of numerous books on preventing violence in the U.S. and abroad. In 2015 he completed an autobiography titled A Model of Prevention: Life Lessons. David was preceded in death by his beloved wife and collaborator Beatrix Hamburg, a fellow psychiatrist and active member of the IOM/NAM. For more on David’s life and career, see his obituary in the Washington Post.

“David was personally a role model for me,” said NAM President Victor J. Dzau, MD. “His deeply held commitment to improving the health and safety of people across the world is an ideal to which we should all aspire, and the impact he made in his 93 years cannot be quantified.”