Dr. Ruth Puffer

Public Health Heroes
Ruth Puffer
Dr.Ruth Puffer

Dr. Ruth Puffer of the United States (1907-2002) was a biostatistician and public health professional. She pursued graduate studies at Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Harvard School of Public Health and received a Doctor of Public Health degree from Harvard University in 1943. In 1933 she became Director of Statistical Services in the Department of Public Health for the state of Tennessee. Between 1953-1970, Dr. Puffer served as Chief of the Department of Health Statistics of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), where she was the prime mover behind the Inter-American Investigation of Childhood Mortality that PAHO. During that period, she conducted two important research studies: Patterns of Urban Mortality (1967) and Patterns of Morality in Childhood (1973). Today, both studies are still considered path-breaking classics of scientific literature and have had an undeniable impact on health services throughout the hemisphere.

She was an active member to the American Public Health Association (APHA) and served as its vice president and fellow in the American Statistical Association Dr. Puffer semiretired in 1970 but continued to work as a health consultant in Washington, D.C., the Americas, India, and Indonesia. She wrote several books and papers on public health. In 1970 Dr. Puffer received the Centennial Award for her outstanding service in public health, from the State of Tennessee. In the same year, she was presented an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Smith College. Dr. Puffer received the Abraham Horwitz Award for Inter-American Health given by the Pan American Health Foundation (PAHEF) in 1978.

Dr. Ruth Rice Puffer died on September 2, 2002, in McMinnville, Oregon. She was 95.

A posthumous award recognition was given to her outstanding professional career on December 2, 2002 in Washington, D. C., during the 100th anniversary of the Pan American Health Organization. Dr. Puffer was among the 12 individuals selected as Public Health Heroes and Heroines, in recognition of the invaluable health contributions in the region.

Links of interest:

Ruth Rice Puffer: Highlights of a rewarding life. Pan American Journal of Public Health, 12(5), 200

Patterns of birthweights: a summary. PAHO Bulletin 21(2), 1987