Dr. Michael A. Koenig

The Baltimore Sun

Dr. Michael A. Koenig, an international expert in partner violence and child abuse in developing countries, died of cancer Jan. 27 at his Roland Park home. He was 56.

Born and raised in Ishpeming, Mich., he earned a bachelor's degree from Colgate University in 1974.

In 1976, he earned a master's degree in sociology from the University of Michigan, and he earned a doctorate in population planning in 1981, also from the University of Michigan School of Graduate Studies.

From 1981 to 1983, he was a postdoctoral fellow in population dynamics at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, where he completed a series of studies on adolescent pregnancy and contraceptive use in the United States.

He later traveled to Bangladesh, where he was a consultant to several child-survival research projects at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research.

Dr. Koenig was in charge of a staff of 180 people who conducted research on health and population issues, and he worked to make family planning and health services more understandable and acceptable to rural populations.

From 1983 to 1985, he was a principal investigator on a research project on women's status and reproductive behavior in rural North India, and he was also principal investigator on a research project on socioeconomic and demographic determinants on childhood mortality in rural Bangladesh.

After 6 1/2 years in Bangladesh, Dr. Koenig moved to New Delhi, where he became the program officer with the Ford Foundation and was responsible for developing its reproductive health program in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

In addition to formulating policy, Dr. Koenig decided how research and field intervention activities would be funded, including work on HIV/AIDS prevention.

In 1998, he became an associate professor and later was promoted to full professor at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in the department of population, family and reproductive health.

Throughout his career, Dr. Koenig's research interests remained focused on the factors that contributed to high mortality for pregnant women and women during childbirth in Third World countries such as India and Bangladesh, and what could be done to offset them.

He also conducted research into domestic violence in India, Bangladesh and Uganda, and the mental, physical and family planning consequences for women living in those countries.

Dr. Koenig's collaborative research drawn from South African high schools sought to reduce the HIV risk to teenagers through the use of education and mobile health clinics.

"It was Mike's work that put gender and sexual violence on the global radar screen. His reputation is huge," said Dr. Robert William Blum, chairman of the department of population, family and reproductive health, and director of the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute.

"Nobody was talking about gender and sexual violence in developing countries such as India, China and Africa in the 1980s. Today, no one would argue that it doesn't exist," he said.

Dr. Blum said he has received nearly 200 e-mails from all over the world lamenting Dr. Koenig's death.

"I think at least two-thirds of them came from Africa," he said. "These are from people whose lives were touched by his work."

Dr. Amy O. Tsui, director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Hopkins School of Public Health, had been a friend and colleague of Dr. Koenig's since the early 1990s.

"Mike Koenig was one of those special professors who combined exemplary research with firsthand insights from the field and a passion for encouraging students to discover the same on their own," Dr. Tsui said.

Dr. Tsui said Dr. Koenig's work in India and Bangladesh helped nurture "many generations of researchers to pursue rigorous studies in reproductive, maternal and child health and domestic violence issues."

She added: "His legacy lies in those scholars now reaching positions where they can in turn use science to better the human condition and train newer ones behind them. It's the noblest of legacies for a researcher and educator whose contributions have been prematurely shortened."

A prolific writer, Dr. Koenig had published three books, and written 14 book chapters and more than 56 articles for peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. Koenig was diagnosed with a duodenal tumor in 2006, and a year later, with a brain tumor.

"After this diagnosis, he was determined to live life to the fullest, and he did while continuing to conduct his research," said his wife of 25 years, Dr. Gillian Foo.

Dr. Koenig enjoyed traveling, deep-sea fishing and "honing his skills as a gourmet cook. He loved Indian food," his wife said.

He also liked jogging, walking and collecting antique carpets.

"He kept working until 10 days before his death. I'd say that was pretty extraordinary," Dr. Blum said.

Plans for a memorial service to held at Johns Hopkins were incomplete yesterday.

Also surviving are a son, Matthew R. Koenig of Roland Park; a daughter, Leah Koenig of Roland Park; his parents, Harry and Debbie Koenig of Ishpeming; a brother, Dr. Steven Koenig of Milwaukee; a sister, Karen Zwecker of North Palm Beach, Fla.; and several nieces and nephews.

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