Deborah S. Edelman, writer

Deborah S. Edelman, an author and writer who wrote widely on health issues and established Public Health Media Inc., died Nov. 10 of metastatic breast cancer at her Mount Washington home.

She was 51.

Dr. Edelman, who kept her maiden name, was born and raised in Garden City, N.Y. After graduating in 1978 from Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn., she earned a bachelor's degree in 1982 in political science from McGill University in Montreal.

Dr. Edelman had contemplated a career in law but changed her mind after working as a writer for a medical publisher in New York City for two years, where she covered medical conferences, wrote articles on medical specialties, and was assistant editor of Dermatology News and then editor of Orthopedic News.

She enrolled at Columbia Journalism School, where she earned a master's degree in 1985. She earned a doctorate in public health from the University of California, Berkeley in 2004.

In a profile this year in the Choate Rosemary Hall Alumni Magazine, Dr. Edelman explained why she steered away from a career in politics and law to write about health issues.

"It was important socially, politically, economically and internationally," she said in the interview.

After Columbia, she wrote for various mass-market publications and produced radio shows.

In 1987, Business Week published an article, "Holistic Medicine: No Longer Hocus Pocus," which brought her a measure of national media attention.

While living in Manhattan, she was head of public information for the Alcoholism Council of Greater New York. A series of press briefings she had written, "The Chemical Connection," led to articles in major news media outlets, including People magazine, which published a story on adult children of alcoholics.

Her 1992 book, "Sex in the Golden Years: What's Ahead May Be Worth Aging For," had its roots in her Columbia Journalism School master's project.

Publisher's Weekly described it as a "smoothly written … shibboleth-shattering … stimulating book."

While talk shows hesitated to feature programs on geriatric sex and aging, drug companies seized upon the opportunity to use Dr. Edelman's book to market their products such as Viagra and Cialis.

Her "ability to spot and spark trends led to her research on the media's role in public health," said the alumni magazine interview. "Her report, 'More Than Just Talk: How Radio Talk Shows Impact Public Health' won an award from the Broadcast Education Association in 2005."

After completing a postdoctoral fellowship in 2006 at the Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Edelman founded Public Health Media Inc., a consulting, research and development firm that uses multimedia strategies when working with government, academic, nonprofits and corporate clients on health issues.

Dr. Edelman's interests included aging, adolescent health, holistic health, tobacco control, yoga and new media issues.

While a student at Berkeley, she was a founding board member and had remained active with Shalom Bayit, which has grown into a national leader in eradicating domestic violence in the Jewish community.

Dr. Edelman was adjunct professor from 2005 to 2006 at George Washington University of Public Health, where she taught health behavior and health education for graduate students.

From 1985 to 2000, she had been a consultant to the National Academy of Sciences and National Council on Alcoholism.

"I met her my first day of journalism school at Columbia," said Robert Blau, former managing editor of The Baltimore Sun, who since 2008 has been managing editor of Bloomberg News in Washington.

"She brought passion and sophistication to her interests, whether it was her writing, scholarship, yoga or raising her two daughters," said Mr. Blau. "She had an adventuresome spirit that took her all over, and she had the devotion of her family, friends and colleagues."

Dr. Edelman was a member of the Maryland Writers' Association, where she had served as director of programs and strategic initiatives.

She also had written a screenplay and since 1980 had written poetry, which she performed locally and also in New York, California and Hawaii. Several of her poems are being published this year in an anthology by the Maryland Writers' Association.

Dr. Edelman also enjoyed collecting art and was a yoga instructor at Charm City Yoga.

She was an active member and facilitator at Beth Am Synagogue, where services were held Nov. 11.

Surviving are her husband of 18 months, Joseph E. Davis, a budget analyst for the Veterans Administration in Washington; two daughters, Julie Roland, 18, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, and Lucy Roland, 16, a junior at the Bryn Mawr School; a stepdaughter, Nicole Buchman of Ellicott City; her mother, Rosalind Edelman of Boynton Beach, Fla.; and two brothers, Paul Edelman of Brookline, Mass., and Howard Edelman of Garden City. An earlier marriage ended in divorce.

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