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UW Health Mourns the Passing of Physician and Social Activist Jeffrey Patterson

Dr. Jeffrey PattersonMadison, Wisconsin - Dr. Jeffrey Patterson, a family medicine physician, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and an activist for health and environmental causes, died Jan. 23.


Patterson, who started at UW Health as a resident in 1973, was an osteopathic physician at the UW Health Northeast Clinic in Madison. He served as the clinic's medical director from 1988 to 1991.


He also became a world expert on prolotherapy, an alternative medical treatment in which dextrose (sugar water) is injected to relieve pain. He published a number of papers about the efficacy of the procedure and directed an international conference on prolotherapy annually in Madison since 2005.


Aside from his groundbreaking research and relationship with patients, Patterson was also known for his involvement in Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), a group of 30,000 members globally that advocates the abolition of nuclear weapons and other societal trends that negatively affect human health. Patterson was the founder of Madison's chapter of PSR, served as one of its national board members, and was the 2013 president-elect.   


"One nuclear weapon going off would be a catastrophe," said Patterson in a 2010 interview. "We look at (Hurricane) Katrina in New Orleans. Four years later, 9,000 people still live in temporary housing. If we can't afford to rehab a city like that with the resources we have, imagine what it would be like if Washington, D.C. disappeared, or New York. There really is no cure for a nuclear weapon going off. The only cure is to prevent it from happening."


"We as taxpayers have spent over $6 trillion on the development and use of nuclear weapons," he added. "We could have put that money to better use."


Patterson also expressed PSR's concern with global climate change and how it would affect future generations.


"It may be slow, but it's like a train coming down the tracks," he said. "Oceans are rising and the winters out east are getting worse. Global warming could lead to spread of disease as mosquito vectors move north. Unless we do something, all the immunizations we do, all the cardiology we do, and all the primary care I do is not worth much."


Patterson also served as a member of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and medical director of Hackett Hemwall Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides medical care to third-world countries, and education and research in medical procedures such as prolotherapy.


"In many ways, Dr. Patterson embodied our transformation into a school of medicine and public health long before we even contemplated it," said Dr. Robert Golden, dean of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. "He was equally engaged with community and public health issues, even as he dedicated himself to caring for patients and their families. His emphasis on social issues and public policy as vitally important determinants of health was prescient."


Patterson earned his bachelor's degree from Grinnell College in Iowa in 1965, and graduated from the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Missouri in 1972. 


"He was a passionate crusader for social justice and most importantly, as president of PSR, for an end to the possibility of nuclear war," said Dr. Valerie Gilchrist, chair of the UW Department of Family Medicine. "However, he was also, for his Northeast family and for many, a loving friend always ready to help. His healing touch, literally and figuratively, helped thousands. It feels like he is gone far too soon. He will be painfully missed around the world."

Date Published: 01/24/2014

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UW Health Mourns the Passing of Physician and Social Activist Jeffrey Patterson

Last updated: 01/24/2014
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