Remembering Doug Kirby

Date: April 25th, 2013
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On Wednesday, March 25, family, friends, and colleagues gathered to remember Douglas Kirby, PhD, after his passing, Saturday, December 22, 2012. The service provided the opportunity for friends to share memories and anecdotes about Doug. Below are some excerpts from the tributes, with links to video clips, as well.

Pat Paluzzi, President and CEO, Healthy Teen Network, remembers Doug  as a researcher; humorous, warm, and generous colleague; and a family man: “I’ve never heard anybody make research as accessible as that man did in that moment.” (Video)

Rev. Debra W. Haffner, President, Religious Institute, Inc., gives a liturgy in honor of Doug and his love for life:

  • “We’re here to share with each other our loss of this amazing man who we all know died doing what he loved—climbing one of the highest mountains in the world, stopping for a glass of water (or actually probably a drink from a canteen of some kind), looking out at that moonlit vista, and then explaining, in Doug-like fashion, ‘Isn’t life great?’”
  • “I have been awed by how many people considered Doug to be one of their closest friends.” (Video)

Robert Blum, William H. Gates Sr. Chair, Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, recalls first meeting Doug and forming a close friendship, as well as Doug’s dedication to both nature and data-driven advocacy:

  • “He would say, ‘no really, what I really, really want to know…’ And that was one of the characteristics that made him so wonderful, was that he was intent on knowing what you knew, but he was much more intent on knowing who you were.”
  • “That path was later named for him because of his passionate dedication to clearing it and establishing it, and I have rarely seen pride and joy and the love of nature as reflected in that man’s eyes as we walked down that path.”
  • “Doug was profoundly, intellectually honest and profoundly meticulous. Data drove his advocacy; advocacy did not drive his data, nor his research.  And because of that, and of because of who he was as a person, he bridged a broad political divide.  He was able to connect with people whose fundamental orientation was very, very different than his.” (Video)

Sarah Brown, CEO, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, recognizes the tremendous contribution Doug made to the adolescent sexual and reproductive health field, beginning almost two decades ago, in his research to answer the common question, “What works?”:

  • “He developed a systematic, data-driven way to answer a simple question that many of us in this room are asked all the time: ‘What works?  What should we do?’ That is, what community or classroom intervention or policy actually might help reduce teen pregnancy, STDs, HIV.”
  • “Doug walked fearlessly into the tangled underbush of intervention evaluation and emerged with specific conclusions and crisp guidance…It’s important to remember that Doug was the pioneer list-maker in our field, the first to take a clear eye to the available research, to articulate points of consensus, and to recommend reasonable next steps.”
  • Every time I hear the phrase ‘evidence-based programs,’ I think of Doug.” (Video)

John Santelli, Department Chair, Population and Family Health, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, shares how Doug was always there for him as a friend, to offer supportive and wise advice: “He contributed enormously. He believed in science, we’ve all said that, but he really believed in adolescents. And why did he do all this work? He had a zest for life, and he really cared about adolescents. He wanted to do the work for the youth of the planet.” (Video)

Lori Rolleri, Independent Public Health Consultant, remembers her mentor and friend and the effect his amazing research has had on people and the field of adolescent reproductive health research: “I realized that Doug’s career was all about asking big questions and finding answers, or at least being on the lookout for those emerging answers.  I think Doug took on answering big questions for two reasons.  First, he was a skilled researcher with an insatiable sense of curiosity.  And second, he wanted to find answers that he could share with people on the ground that were doing the important work for people in need.  Much of what Doug accomplished in the last two decades of his career made adolescent reproductive health research understandable and usable by thousands of practitioners, researchers, and policymakers.” (Video)

The touching stories shared by these planned speakers, as well as several other welcomed, spontaneous speakers, offered the opportunity for attendees to laugh and remember Doug. The warm memories and awe-inspiring anecdotes could only just begin to trace a picture of the amazing, loving, and dedicated man Doug was.

Advocates for Youth, Healthy Teen Network, and The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy partnered together to host this memorial  service.

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About the Author

Gina Desiderio, Healthy Teen Network Director of Communications, has over 10 years of capacity-building and project management experience, supporting professionals to provide programs and services to empower youth to thrive.

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