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Dr. Paul David Stolley, a renowned epidemiologist

Dr. Paul David Stolley, a renowned epidemiologist
Dr. Paul David Stolley, a prominent epidemiologist, died Aug. 4 of bone cancer. (Photo courtesy of Bill Salganik)

Dr. Paul David Stolley, an epidemiologist who fought for more rigorous drug safety testing, died Fridayof bone cancer in his Columbia home. He was 80.

His friends and family said Dr. Stolley devoted his life to advancing public health through his research and by mentoring others.

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"He thought it was very important to do public service, and he taught all of us that we should be working to help others in any way we could," said his daughter, Anna Stolley Persky. "He was best able to help others by doing his meticulous research."

He was born June 17, 1937, in Pawling, N.Y., the son of Herman and Rosalie Stolley, both active members of the Communist Party. Though he distanced himself from their views, his daughter said, he embraced a humanist philosophy.

Dr. Stolley grew up attending public schools in Forest Hills, N.Y., and earned a scholarship to Lafayette College at 16 years old.

While there, he twice won a college-wide competition for proficiency in Bible education — though he was an atheist who came from a Jewish background.

"It just shows my father could research anything thoroughly," said Ms. Stolley Persky, of Fairfax, Va.

Dr. Stolley graduated from Lafayette in 1957. While on a trip to Europe during his time in college, he met the woman who would become his wife. Jo Ann Goldenberg, of Baltimore, noticed Dr. Stolley while the two were on a cruise.

"She thought he looked smart, so she kept a book in her hands to try and get his attention," said their daughter. "They continued to travel together and have tons of adventures over the years."

Dr. Stolley attended Cornell University Medical College and graduated in 1962. He did his medical residency at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Dr. Stolley applied for the U.S. Public Health Service in the early 1960s and was initially rejected, which his children say was believed to be due to his parents' political leanings.

He sought legal help from the American Civil Liberties Union, his children said, and was granted admission. He served at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta with the rank of lieutenant commander.

An ardent supporter of civil rights, Dr. Stolley used to go hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak while living in Georgia. He was invited to get dinner with the civil rights leader and his wife, but had to turn them down — he couldn't find a babysitter in time.

"As a father, he was always there for us," Ms. Stolley Persky said.

In 1968, he became an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, where he earned a master's degree in public health.

Dr. Stolley helped found the University of Pennsylvania Medical School's Clinical Epidemiology Unit, now called the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, in 1976. He took his children on hospital rounds with him as he treated many low-income Philadelphia patients.

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Dr. Stolley also helped create a program that allowed doctors from developing countries to come to the United States and access public health knowledge that could be used back home.

"He was focused on doing well by as many people as possible," said Rutgers University Chancellor Dr. Brian Strom, who worked with Dr. Stolley at Penn.

Dr. Stolley was named chairman of the University of Maryland School of Medicine's department of epidemiology and public Health in 1990.

He also worked as a senior consultant for the Food and Drug Administration, where he argued against what he saw as a "cozy" relationship between pharmaceutical companies and regulators, according to his daughter. His research helped establish a link between oral contraceptives and a risk of stroke, and found a relationship between the dosage of certain asthma medication and high mortality rates in many countries.

Dr. Stolley published more than 200 articles on epidemiology, many of which were focused on the connection between pharmaceuticals and potentially dangerous side effects.

Dr. Stolley served as an editorial board member for the New England Journal of Medicine, and president of both the American Epidemiological Society and the Society for Epidemiological Research. He was also a longtime member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. He also served on many advisory committees that dealt with drug safety. He worked for Public Citizen's Health Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization, as well.

"He was a strong advocate for the FDA to take an assertive public health view and protect patients from the unnecessary harm of prescription drugs," said Dr. David Graham, a longtime friend and colleague. "He thought protecting the public should be the FDA's highest priority."

Dr. Stolley also researched patterns of violence in Baltimore.

Beyond his research, Dr. Stolley loved fishing, classical music and travel. He was a voracious reader and had a caustic wit, his daughter said.

"He didn't have patience for shallow thoughts," she said. "He was extremely kind, but he didn't do small talk. He didn't want to talk about sports or sports cars or anything mundane. He wanted to focus on what he thought was more important."

Services will be held Aug. 7 at 2 p.m., at The Meeting House in Columbia.

Along with his wife and daughter, Dr. Stolley is survived by his son Jonathan of Maine, daughter Dorie Stolley of Massachusetts, sister Carol Dvora of California, and five grandchildren.

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