October 19, 2017
Aerial View of UC Berkeley Campus Buildings
Be Well

Ode to Joyce

by John Swartzberg, M.D.  |  

Those of us who have been fortunate to work on the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter have many reasons to thank Dr. Joyce Lashof, as do millions of our readers these past 32 years. Without her, there would not have been aWellness Letter, at least not the special publication it turned out to be.

Joyce was the dean of the School of Public Health here at UC Berkeley in 1983 when a New York publisher named Rodney Friedman proposed creating a newsletter de­­voted to the new concept of wellness. Back then, such a public/private partnership was uncharted territory for the University, but Joyce, along with Dr. Sheldon Margen, enthusiastically championed the nascent publication. Sheldon became its first Chair (1984 to 2001, when I took over), but Joyce became in many ways our guiding star. She has served on the Editorial Board all these years, and as Associate Chair since 2001, has continued to do so long after she officially retired from the university. Joyce is now stepping down from her active role on the Wellness Letter to pursue other pleasures.

Turning 90 last year, Joyce has worked on the Wellness Letter more than a third of her life—unpaid, I should add. She has taken part in the editorial review of more than 400 issues of the newsletter. By my rough calculations, that adds up to nearly 200 eight-hour days just spent at our monthly Editorial Board meetings. Her voice can be heard in nearly every one of our articles—practical, insightful, down-to-earth, and optimistic.

Apart from the benefits to our readers—and to those of us who learned so much directly from her—the School of Public Health has earned millions of dollars in royalties from this newsletter, money that has been used largely for scholarships. Thanks to Joyce’s determination to achieve excellence in the Wellness Letter, hundreds of students who otherwise might not have gotten advanced degrees have as­­sumed high-level positions in public health around the world.

But Joyce has done this throughout her career, a career of many firsts. Not only was she the first woman to be a dean of a professional school at UC Berkeley, she was the first woman appointed director of a state department of public health (in Illinois, starting in 1973). She has been a leader in the development of community health centers and of the American Public Health Association. Among her many accomplishments, she chaired the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (1995-97) and an Institute of Medicine committee on the Early Detection of Breast Cancer (2000-01).

“Doing well by doing good” has rarely presented a more shining example than Joyce. I have been honored to work with her, and look forward to her continued contributions.

Also see It's the Big 3-0 for the Berkeley Wellness Letter—and Counting.