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In Memoriam: Herman Cember, PhD, Founder of GSPH Radiological Health Program

Herman Cember, PhD, passed away on March 7, 2009, in Indianapolis, Indiana, at the age of 85. Dr. Cember was instrumental in starting the radiological health program at GSPH and served as the radiation safety officer for the University. He also received master’s and doctoral degrees from Pitt in biophysics. At the time of his death, he was an adjunct professor at Purdue University School of Health Sciences and was an emeritus professor at Northwestern University, where he had been a professor of environmental health for more than 30 years.

According to an interview he gave to RSO Magazine in 2005, Dr. Cember was recruited by GSPH’s first dean, Thomas Parran. “The University of Pittsburgh was the first university in the country to offer courses in health physics that were not supported by the U.S. Government,” Dr. Cember recalled. “Many years earlier Dr. Parran’s wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a radical mastectomy. She then was given radiation therapy at doses high enough to severely damage the nerves in her arm. Dr. Parran told me that if he ever would have the opportunity to determine a curriculum for physicians, he would include a course in radiation biology and dosimetry. And so, thanks to Dr. Parran, Health Physics instruction at the Graduate School of Public Health was born.”

Ronald L. Kathren, professor emeritus at Washington State University and a 1962 graduate of GSPH, recalls, “Professor Herman Cember was an inspiration to many of his students at Pitt and elsewhere. His professional influence was enormous, and as, as the author of the widely used textbook Introduction to Health Physics, now in its 4th edition and the all-time best selling textbook published by Pergamon Press, touched virtually every practicing health physicist.

“On a personal note,” Kathren continues, “Professor Cember recruited me for the GSPH, and although he moved on from Pitt just before I arrived as a student, he nonetheless followed my career and served as a mentor and friend for nearly a half century.”

Dr. Cember is survived by his wife of 65 years, Sylvia L. Brudner Cember, a son, two brothers and numerous grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. The family requests that memorials be sent to the Methodist Health Foundation (notated to the Marilyn Zimmerman Memorial Fund), P.O. Box 7168, Indianapolis, IN 46207-7168.


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