James Dwyer, professor of preventive medicine, died Oct. 26 following a prolonged fight with a rare cancer. He was 59.
Dwyer, who joined the Keck School of Medicine in 1986 as an associate professor of research in preventive medicine and became a full professor in 1998, was best known for his transdisciplinary approach to research and his investigation into cardiovascular epidemiology, specifically into the causes and contributors of atherosclerosis, including diet, exercise, stress, genetics and the interaction of these factors.
Ronald Ross, the Flora L. Thornton Chair in Preventive Medicine at the Keck School, praised Dwyer as an outstanding scientist and researcher.
“More importantly, he was a wonderful person. He was understandably proud of his scientific accomplishments but much more so of his children and his family. His courage and grace during his prolonged illness were truly inspirational. He always was upbeat and optimistic even during the worst of times. Jim was a dear colleague and friend and we will all miss him immensely.”
C. Anderson Johnson, the Sidney Garfield Professor of Preventive Medicine and director of the USC Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research, echoed those thoughts, adding that Dwyer was also a pioneer in research that transcended the traditional boundaries of various disciplines.
“One remarkable thing that Jim did and taught others to do was not to be afraid to cross lines,” he said, noting that Dwyer’s training in social psychology and mathematics made him especially well suited to perform groundbreaking community-based research in the etiology of cardiovascular disease.
“His contributions to our knowledge of cardiovascular epidemiology are remarkable and paved the way for future research leading to improved health outcomes,” Johnson said.
Born in Pasadena in 1946, Dwyer attended Temple City High School and studied undergraduate mathematics at Heidelberg University in the Federal Republic of Germany. He received a bachelor’s degree from Pepperdine University in 1968 and later studied mathematics at UC Irvine’s graduate school.
He served research fellowships at Caltech, the Ames Research Center in Palo Alto and UC Santa Cruz in the early 1970s and received his doctorate in social psychology from UC Santa Cruz in 1975.
Dwyer was a lecturer at James Cook University in North Queensland, Australia, from 1975 to 1978 and an assistant professor at SUNY Stonybrook from 1979 to 1983. He served as a biostatistician at the Institute for Epidemiology in Berlin from 1984 to 1986 before moving to USC.
He is survived by his wife, Kathleen Dwyer, senior research associate in the Department of Preventive Medicine, and three children.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Nov. 5 at All Saints Church, 132 N. Euclid Ave. in Pasadena.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to Amnesty International (http://web.amnesty.org/pages/donate_now), Doctors Without Borders ((888) 392-0392), Night Basketball and Books ((626) 304-0141), Planned Parenthood ((800) 798-7092) or the Surfrider Foundation (http://www.surfrider.org/donate).