All Categories

Remembering Dr. H. Jack Geiger, PSR co-founder

Dr. Geiger, left, with Drs. Victor Sidel and Sidney Alexander at the IPPNW Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 1985.

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. H. Jack Geiger, a co-founder and former president of PSR. Dr. Geiger died on Sunday night at his home in Brooklyn, New York. We extend our sincere condolences to Dr. Geiger’s family and loving friends as we remember his remarkable life.

Dr. Geiger was a co-author of one of the first articles to look at the medical costs of nuclear war. Published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1962, it convincingly described the humanitarian disaster that would occur in the event of a nuclear strike on Boston, Massachusetts.

As one longtime PSR member wrote us this morning, “He was a great inspiration for me. Changed my life.  And [his] message is still relevant.”

Dr. Geiger’s work was driven by his passion for justice. He was not only a founding member of PSR, but also Physicians for Human Rights. As a young man, he fought racial injustice at the University of Chicago, helping to organize faculty and students in protest against Black patients being shut out of certain hospitals, and qualified Black students being rejected by the medical school. Later, after becoming a doctor, he was a pioneer in the community health center movement, co-founding community health centers in Boston and in the Mississippi Delta that served as a model for a national network of clinics that today serves millions of low-income patients.

Dr. Geiger’s remarks at the closing session of American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in 1985 resonate powerfully today, as our nation struggles to meet the health needs of a population stricken by the COVID-19 pandemic: “If we somehow suspended the arms race and expenditures on it for a year, we could, I am confident, pay for every proposal made at every session at this meeting of APHA, the last meeting of APHA, and the meeting of APHA next year still to come, and have money left over for further efforts to prevent death, ease suffering and save lives throughout the world.”

We will be publishing an extensive appreciation in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we invite you to read the New York Times’ excellent obituary that details Dr. Geiger’s remarkable life and career.