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Mervyn Susser & Zena Stein

Mervyn Susser (died age 92, 2014) and Zena Stein (age 96 in 2019) began their careers in 1950s South Africa, building community health services among the African population of Alexandra Township, Johannesburg and fighting apartheid.  They were allies and friends of figures such as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, and Ahmed Kathadra. Subsequently they moved to the United Kingdom, and then to the United States and Columbia University, while remaining active in the anti-apartheid movement. At Columbia, they developed their classic research on prenatal exposure to the Dutch Famine of 1944-45, caused by the German invasion of Holland; the data from this study is of continuing use in contemporary studies of prenatal nutrition and epigenetics.  Drs. Stein and Susser always combined their research with their engaged social critique. After apartheid collapsed, they combatted the HIV epidemic, in cooperation with researchers from Southern Africa and elsewhere, most famously in developing the idea of microbicides and preventive methods for women. As founding theoreticians and leaders in epidemiology, their many innovative contributions included an emphasis on the ties between population health and human rights, and the importance of training epidemiologists from underserved populations (in the United States and Africa), as well as on the broad social causes of health in populations.