Photo: Mark Yarchoan '07
Alan Mayer Blum, Class of 1969
Doctor of Science
Alan Blum ’69 has dedicated his career to preventing tobacco-caused illness by any means necessary, most notably through science, marketing and education. As editor of The Journal of the New York State Medical Society in the mid-1980s, Blum risked his job by publishing solid statistics that demonstrated the risks of smoking. He helped found DOC (Doctors Ought to Care), a health-promotion organization that teaches physicians how to help their patients overcome their addiction to smoking. For the fearless way that he has battled against the tobacco industry, former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop has called him an “unsung hero of the world of public health.”
Blum’s activism dates back to 1964, when—as editor of his high school newspaper—he wrote his first anti-smoking commentary, “Childish Habit,” which critiqued the recent surgeon general’s report. Teenagers, he wrote then, “are being duped by the continuous flood of advertising without realizing that the diseases caused by smoking can actually affect them.” Later, as a medical student at Emory University, he developed a multimedia presentation on cigarette advertising and tobacco use in this country, the basis for much of his later teaching.
Turning the industry’s methods back against them, Blum pioneered the use of paid “counter-advertising” through purchased space in the mass media. He studied the tobacco industry’s efforts to target women, minorities and children, and also has examined the connection between cigarette companies and their sponsorship of sports and cultural events.
Blum has served as editor or on the editorial board of nine medical journals, written innumerable articles in scholarly and popular journals, and traveled widely as a public speaker. He is the recipient of many awards, including the first National Public Health Award from the American Academy of Family Physicians in 1993. A charismatic and effective teacher who approaches each new assignment with a fresh and creative look at his subject, Blum holds the Gerald Leon Wallace Endowed Chair in Family Medicine in the College of Community Health Sciences at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where he also directs the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society.