Hal Richerson, MD, 1929–2020


Today, a giant in Internal Medicine was laid to rest at Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City by his immediate family. Hal B. Richerson, MD, was a member of the University of Iowa since 1961, when he joined us for residency and fellowship training in Allergy-Immunology. Although he had brief stints away for further training, including the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, the University of London and other locations around the world, Dr. Richerson always came back to Iowa City. From the start of his career here, he emerged as a clinical leader, an exemplary teacher, and accomplished researcher who was NIH-funded for greater than half a century.

In 1978, after years of other leadership roles in the department, Dr. Richerson became the first director of what was officially organized as the Division of Allergy-Immunology. His impact on the shape of today’s Division of Immunology, which now includes the allergy, immunology, and rheumatology subspecialties, can still be seen today. Among his many accomplishments at the national and international level, Dr. Richerson brought his expertise on Farmer’s Lung to his service on a World Health Organization committee on occupational health, as well as to the NIAID’s Task Force on Asthma and Other Allergic Diseases in the NIH. He was the first to describe Delayed Cutaneous Hypersensitivity and was the author of a chapter on it in Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, which stood for years. At the state level he served on Iowa’s Air Quality Commission for decades and led multiple commissions at the University of Iowa. Education was also one of Dr. Richerson’s motivating forces, and medical students and trainees all valued his passion. In 1996, he received the Laureate Award from the Iowa Chapter of the American College of Physicians, and two years later he was recognized with the Distinguished Clinician Award from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Calling the division under his leadership “the most distinguished in the country,” Dr. Frank Abboud cited Dr. Richerson’s leadership as the key factor. “His legacy of devotion to excellence,” Dr. Abboud said, “to the department and the college is everlasting. A founder of the culture of commitment to the highest academic values, integrity, and loyalty that made us what we are today.”

Dr. Ballas and Dr. Richerson, 2001

On that issue of integrity, Dr. Zuhair Ballas echoed Dr. Abboud. “His word was better than any iron-clad contract.” He continued: “Hal was a one-of-a-kind, not only as an accomplished academician but also as a humane, caring, and dedicated physician and mentor. He displayed an infectious and unbridled passion for life-long learning, for compassion, and for patience in dealing with patients and mentees. When faced with challenges or ethical dilemmas, one of his mantras was ‘you never go wrong by taking the high road.’ He served as a role model to many of the junior faculty that he recruited and nurtured. His knowledge, wit and humor will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”

We encourage you to read his obituary prepared by his family. It should be noted that one of Dr. Richerson’s children is George Richerson, MD, PhD, Chair and DEO of the Department of Neurology. George informs me that given Dr. Richerson’s love for our department, donations in his memory will be directed to the Internal Medicine Faculty and Staff Excellence Fund. A memorial open to the public will be held later in the year when conditions improve.

About E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD

E. Dale Abel, MD PhD Francois M. Abboud Chair in Internal Medicine John B. Stokes III Chair in Diabetes Research Chair, Department of Internal Medicine Director, Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center Director, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Biomedical Engineering

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