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PSR Obituary, February 4, 2018

Remembering one of our founders, Dr. Victor W. Sidel

Dear Michael,

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Victor W. Sidel, a co-founder and former president of PSR, and a former co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Dr. Sidel passed away on Tuesday, January 30. We extend our sincere condolences to Dr. Sidel's family and loving friends as we remember his remarkable life.

As one longtime PSR member wrote, "We live in a world that he helped mold." Dr. Sidel has inspired so many of us with his moral and scientific leadership. He paved a path for physicians and health professionals to step up and lead on the most consequential issues that our world still faces today. We are incredibly grateful for Dr. Sidel's 60 years of visionary leadership. He will always remain a source of inspiration and guidance for us in our work for peace, nuclear disarmament and health equity.

Dr. Sidel's career in medicine and activism planted the seeds of the peace and health equity movement. Dr. Sidel co-founded PSR in 1961. In 1962, he contributed to a series of influential articles published in The New England Journal of Medicine titled "Medical Consequences of Thermonuclear War," which detailed the catastrophic medical consequences of using nuclear weapons. The publication of these articles spurred the formation of PSR chapters across the United States.

In 1980, a group of physicians including Dr. Sidel worked to establish a global federation, IPPNW. Together, IPPNW and PSR mobilized physicians to educate policymakers and the public on the medical and environmental consequences of nuclear war. By 1985, more than 1.25 million physicians signed IPPNW's appeal. IPPNW and its global affiliates received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for raising awareness of the medical consequences of nuclear war. Dr. Sidel served as co-president of IPPNW from 1993 to 1998.

Dr. Sidel later served as president of the American Public Health Association (APHA) in 1985 at the height of the nuclear freeze movement. At the 1986 APHA Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, Dr. Sidel declared the prevention of nuclear war a public health priority in an official address. He helped organize a demonstration of 400 people at the Nevada Test Site. Their civil disobedience led to a series of demonstrations by public health leaders that increased pressure on the United States and the Soviet Union to abide by a moratorium on underground nuclear testing. Following Dr. Sidel's tenure as president, the APHA adopted its first official policy statement opposing the nuclear arms race.

Dr. Sidel authored and co-authored numerous books and articles about the human consequences of war, international health, and the impact of poverty on health. He was co-editor with his longtime colleague and friend Dr. Barry Levy of two editions each of the books War and Public Health, Terrorism and Public Health, and Social Injustice and Public Health, all published by Oxford University Press. He co-authored books on health policy and on China with his beloved spouse, Ruth Sidel, who was a professor of sociology at Hunter College in New York and died in 2016.

Dr. Sidel was chair of the Department of Social Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York, from 1969 to 1985. He then became Distinguished University Professor of Social Medicine at Montefiore and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He served as president of the Public Health Association of New York City (PHANYC) and on the board of directors of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and other organizations.

In 1971, he and Ruth Sidel were among the first American health professionals invited to the People’s Republic of China. Dr. Sidel was the honorary Cleveringa Professor of Medicine and Human Rights at Leiden University in the Netherlands in 1998-1999. Among his other honors were the Sedgwick Memorial Medal of the American Public Health Association for "outstanding accomplishments in public health" and the APHA Award for Excellence for "exceptionally meritorious contributions to the improvement of the health of the people."

Dr. Sidel is survived by his two sons and their spouses, Kevin and Inge Sidel of Elizabeth, CO; Mark Sidel and Margaret Raymond of Madison, WI; and three grandchildren, Andrew Sidel, Rosemary Raymond-Sidel, and Theodora Raymond-Sidel.

Graveside services will be held at Temple Ohabei Shalom Cemetery, 147 Wordsworth Street, East Boston, Massachusetts on February 4, 2018 at 11:30 a.m.

The family requests that memorial gifts be made to Physicians for Social Responsibility or International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

It is a privilege to be part of the movement that Dr. Sidel fostered. Dr. Sidel's profound contributions and leadership will always be a source of inspiration in our work to build a more peaceful, equitable, and just world.


Jeff Carter, JD
Executive Director


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