It is with heavy hearts we share that beloved Pitt Public Health Professor Emeritus Lewis (Lew) H. Kuller passed away on October 25, 2022 after a month-long illness. A prolific researcher, Lew was a superb epidemiologist and visionary who built a world-class Department of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health, serving as its Chair for three decades (from 1972 until 2002).
Known for his incredible intellect, Lew took great joy in teaching and mentoring students. Throughout his long academic journey, he had a major influence on the careers of others, particularly the young investigators he tirelessly supported, serving as a role model for the importance of collaboration in the pursuit of science. He “walked the talk,” transmitting his passion for public health to scientists from multiple institutions and disciplines for more than half a century.
A highly influential global figure in the field of epidemiology, especially in the field of cardiovascular epidemiology, Lew earned his MD at George Washington University in 1959 and DrPH at Johns Hopkins University in 1966. In the following years, Lew established multiple large research programs in aging, women’s health, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease—including the landmark Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) and the Cardiovascular Health Study—which made impactful contributions to our understanding of the progression of disease and principles of prevention.
Lew will be remembered internationally as a founder of the field of preventive cardiology, establishing cholesterol and blood pressure as risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and demonstrating that CVD is preventable through major national clinical trials such as Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT), the Systolic Hypertension in the Elderly Program (SHEP) and the WHI. He was one of the first to recognize the importance of menopause in women’s cardiovascular health, studying methods to reduce these risks. He was also instrumental in creating an Alzheimer’s research program at Pitt that led to meaningful insights into cognitive functioning in the elderly. Most recently, he was working to understand how cardiovascular disease can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, using the latest brain imaging and blood biomarkers.
Lew’s awards and accolades over the years are numerous and include the American Public Health Association’s John Snow Award, the Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award from the University of Pittsburgh and the American Heart Association’s Peter J. Safar Pulse of Pittsburgh Award. Well-deserved, these awards alone cannot adequately convey the deep understanding, creativity and curiosity Lew brought to the field of epidemiology and shared with those who had the privilege to know him.
Lew is survived by his wife Alice, children Gail Enda (Stephen) of Dallas, TX, Anne Kuller (Brian Adams) of San Diego, CA, and son Steven Kuller (Laura) of Camp Hill, PA, as well six grandchildren Helen, Grace, Sophie, Charlotte, Eliza and Margot. He was preceded in death by his brother Alan.