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September 15, 2020

In Memoriam: Edyth Hull Schoenrich, 1919 - 2020

Edyth Hull Schoenrich, MD, MPH, a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health for more than 50 years and former director of the Bureau of Chronic Diseases of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, died Saturday, September 12. She was 101.

Dr. Schoenrich, a pioneer in preventive medicine, was known for her work at the local and state levels to improve the quality and accessibility of care for the poorest and sickest chronic disease patients. In her seventy-plus years with Johns Hopkins, she held faculty and leadership positions in both the School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health. In 1977, Dr. Schoenrich became the first female associate dean at Johns Hopkins University when the Bloomberg School named her associate dean for Academic Affairs.

She died at home in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Edyth was, simply put, a force of nature,” said Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75, the current dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “She embodied the mission of the School and committed her life to improving health and saving lives. Central to this commitment was the training of the next generation of public health professionals. She shaped so many lives in a very real and personal way—including my own.”

Dr. Schoenrich joined the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1953. After she began working in outpatient clinics, she realized that the hospitalized patients she had been treating “had had their disease processes creeping up on them for years before I saw them in crisis, and they were going to live with the consequences of these disease processes for the rest of their lives, whether they were going to live two more days or another 20 years.”

On the staff of Baltimore City Hospital, she became one of the earliest advocates of comprehensive care for severely ill patients with long hospitalizations. In 1964, while working in the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, she began teaching at what is now the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

From 1969 to 1971, she was one of the School’s first part-time MPH students, riding the bus to classes from her downtown office and logging nights and holidays to maintain her full-time position as director of Maryland’s Bureau of Chronic Diseases. According to Marie Diener-West, PhD, chair of the MPH Program, “Edyth was the impetus for our part-time MPH Program and was an absolute inspiration to all of us in her passion for public health and accomplishments. But, above all, she was truly beloved for her unmistakable interest and concern for each and every student, staff, and faculty member.”

Dr. Schoenrich served from 1971 to 1974 as the first director of the Maryland Administration for Services to the Chronically Ill and Aging. She was named a full professor in 1974 in what is now the School’s Department of Health Policy and Management, where she directed the Division of Public Health Administration.

Dean D.A. Henderson named Dr. Schoenrich associate dean for Academic Affairs in 1977. Over the next nine years, she modernized the School’s educational programs, increased students’ clinical and practice experience, and spearheaded the transformation of the General Preventive Medicine Residency.

She capped her remarkable career by directing the part-time professional programs and serving as deputy chair of the MPH Program from 1986 until 2018. Drawing on her personal experience, she helped design flexible graduate programs for working professionals.

Edyth Hull Schoenrich was born September 9, 1919, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Edwin John Hull and Maud Mabel (Kelly) Hull. She earned a BA in 1941 from Duke University and did graduate work in psychology. As one of only three female students in her medical school class of 75, she earned an MD from the University of Chicago in 1947, then completed an internal medicine internship and residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1948 to 1952, serving as chief resident in her final year.

An elected fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Preventive Medicine, Dr. Schoenrich was inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame in 2005 and also held leadership roles in the American Public Health Association, American Hospital Association, and at MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society. Her numerous honors from Johns Hopkins include the Ernest Lyman Stebbins Medal and the Golden Apple teaching award. The Bloomberg School established the Edyth Schoenrich Professorship in Preventive Medicine and the Edyth Schoenrich Scholarship to honor her work and legacy.

Dr. Schoenrich loved hot-air ballooning over the Loire Valley and the Swiss Alps. She was married for 60 years to Carlos Schoenrich, whom she met while studying psychology at Duke University. She was also predeceased by her brother, Edwin Hull, Jr., and sister, Marion Donohue. She is survived by her two children, Lola Schoenrich of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Olaf Schoenrich of Silver Spring, Maryland.

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