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Alan Maier Gittelsohn ’50

A picture of Alan Gittelsohn

Alan Maier Gittelsohn ’50, May 13, 2012, in Berkeley, California. A native of San Francisco, Alan was among the first pedestrians to cross the Golden Gate Bridge on opening day in 1937. He followed his brother, William A. Gittelsohn ’48, to Reed, where he was elected class president in his first year. Military duty interrupted his studies at the college, and he later completed undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. He was the first to earn a doctorate in biostatics from Berkeley. He reconnected with Sharonn J. Goodman ’48 when she moved to San Francisco for work after graduating from Reed. They raised a daughter and two sons, including Michael A. Gittelsohn ’77. Alan became director of biostatistics at the state health department in Albany, New York, before joining the faculty as a professor of biostatistics at Johns Hopkins in 1964. With one of his first students at the university, John Wennberg, he later codirected the Cooperative Health Information Center of Vermont. Developing the method of small area analysis, their research discovered variations in rates for the utilization and distribution of health care services and common medical practices. First published in 1973 in Science, their method had a broad influence in health reform throughout the world. Through the years, statistical projects took Alan to places like Yugoslavia, the Philippines, and Peru. Travel was a happy part of the couple’s years together and their family life. Alan also enjoyed woodworking and was particularly adept at making cabinets and furniture. After retiring in 1992, Alan and Sharonn moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, where Alan continued his work at Dartmouth. In 1995, they returned to their roots, settling in at the top of the Berkeley hills. Alan plunged into researching and writing a book, Doctor Caused Death, which was nearly completed at the time of his own death. Survivors include his children, six grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and a brother. Sharonn died in 2011.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2012

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