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Press Release

July 23, 2020

In Memory of the Division of Research’s Third Director

Gary Friedman, MD, MS — DOR’s third director — passed away over the weekend. Born in 1934, Gary began working here in 1968 as a senior epidemiologist and served as our director from 1991 to 1998 before retiring in 1999.

Gary was the epitome of a well-rounded epidemiologist, studying cancer, cardiovascular disease, and gallbladder disease; the health effects of tobacco, alcohol, and medicinal drugs; and the evaluation of screening tests. He was one of the first researchers to conduct extensive epidemiological studies within a health maintenance organization.

“I have long viewed KP in Northern California as one of the best workshops in the world to do epidemiologic and health services research.”  -Gary Friedman, 1998

He was well respected in the scientific community, serving as editor of the American Journal of Epidemiology and on the editorial board of the Journal of Medical Screening. He served as president of the American Epidemiological Society from 1999 to 2000 and was the recipient of an Outstanding Investigator Grant from the National Cancer Institute from 1989 to 2002.

Friedman, with patient, on the cover of the 1989 Kaiser Permanente Annual Report.

He served on the Epidemiology and Disease Control Study Section of the National Institutes of Health; on the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force; and on the California Air Resources Board.

His textbook, Primer of Epidemiology, has been translated into numerous languages and adds to his more than 300 authored and coauthored scientific publications.

Fond of leading by example and sharing his enthusiasm with future generations of researchers, Gary was a lecturer at UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley, and a consulting professor at Stanford.

In May 1998, prior to his retirement, his career was celebrated at an event at UC Berkeley entitled: Gary Friedman at the DOR: 30 Years (and Counting) — A Celebration of a Career.

Earlier this year, DOR Director Tracy Lieu congratulating and thanking Gary Friedman for his years guiding the Outstanding Paper Award selection process.

In 2010, former DOR director Joe Selby changed the name of the division’s Outstanding Paper Award to the Gary D. Friedman Outstanding Paper Award. This past year, Friedman stepped down as leader of the award program, handing the reins over to UCSF’s Robert A. Hiatt, MD, PhD, an adjunct investigator at the Division of Research.

Research wasn’t Gary’s only passion. His interests also included music. He began his musical education at the age of 5 when he first took up the piano. He played trumpet in junior high and high school and studied organ and music theory during his teenage years. Gary returned to music seriously when he turned 54, studying oboe and English horn. Then, at the age of 64, he began studying music composition and was a prolific composer. His musical works have been performed by community orchestras and chamber groups. He most recently played in the College of Marin Symphony, the Lucas Valley Chamber Orchestra, and the Bohemian Club Band.

Gary leaves behind his wife of more than 60 years, Ruth Schleien, 3 children, and several grandchildren.

A DOR memorial for Gary will be held with details still to be determined. We’ll also let you know about the family’s preference for donations and other ways to remember Gary.


“Gary was a quiet leader who applied a logical, methodological, approach to all his work. He was enormously supportive of my work even after he switched his focus to cancer. Gary had a tremendous impact on my career in multiple ways. Though I didn’t have professional training in epidemiology when he hired me, in 1983 he gave me the opportunity to help write our proposal for the CARDIA study. He provided me a leadership opportunity early in my career at the DOR in a study that has provided, to this day, a stable foundation for my research career.”

Steve Sidney, Director of Research Clinics, Division of Research


“Gary’s stature as a nationally respected epidemiologist enabled him to recruit many talented researchers who are among the leadership of DOR today. He was insightful and gentle, the model of a senior scientist. It’s amazing that he was still producing research, as well as contributing to DOR by leading our outstanding paper competition, well into his 80s.”

                                         -Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, Director, Division of Research


“I’ve always thought of Gary as a meticulous and disciplined scientist, a kind and enthusiastic teacher, and a proud and very engaged husband and father. Many of us are indebted to him for what he taught us as we became epidemiologists.”

-Joe Selby, MD, MPH, Former Director, Division of Research   


“Gary hired me as a research scientist 24 years ago and he was a wonderful mentor, colleague and friend.  I started working with him on a program to investigate the carcinogenicity of commonly prescribed drugs, a program that he established nearly 50 years ago and that generated numerous papers, as well as some of the only human data on a number of drug-cancer associations. In addition to admiring him for his seminal research in a number of areas, I always appreciated his kindness and his joy in conducting epidemiologic research and I’m deeply saddened by this loss.”

-Laurie Habel, PhD, Associate Director, Cancer Research Section, Division of Research