In Memoriam: Joseph Schwerha

Joseph Schwerha, MD, MPH, professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) from 1998-2009, and director of Occupational Medicine Residency and the Certificate in Public Health Preparedness and Disaster Response, died suddenly on April 27, 2011, at age 72.

Most recently, he was adjunct professor of EOH, consultant in occupational and environmental medicine and clinical professor of community medicine at West Virginia University and on the staff at Jefferson Hospital in the occupational medicine department. Schwerha was an international leading authority on the clinical practice and science of occupational medicine and was a well-recognized educator and mentor in this subspecialty.

Schwerha earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry from University of Pittsburgh, MPH in environmental health and industrial hygiene from University of Michigan and MD from West Virginia University. He was board certified in occupational medicine. He served as general manager of health sciences and corporate medical director of U.S. Steel, having worldwide responsibility for medical, safety, industrial hygiene, worker’s compensation, self insurance, employee assistance programs, and family medical centers.


After his retirement from U.S. Steel, he joined EOH and was the principal investigator of a long-standing training grant from National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and an active collaborator in occupational and community-based environmental health studies. He served on international committees and boards including the National Academy Sciences, the International Iron Steel Institute, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and the editorial board of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

He was the 2005 recipient of the Knudsen Award from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. With the help of numerous colleagues in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Schwerha ran and directed a long-standing, board-certified residency in occupational medicine that attracted medically trained individuals from a variety of specialties throughout the United States and internationally. He devoted considerable effort and time in formal instruction and providing contemporary and relevant practical and medical experiences and had an enviable record of accomplishments in placing his trainees in academic, governmental, and private positions. His thoughtfulness and professionalism led to longstanding interactions with former trainees and colleagues. Schwerha readily shared his personal stories and his devotion to and pride in his large family, and interjected this major facet of his life in a motivating and collegial fashion in his training and administrative efforts.


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