COEH Community Saddened by the Loss of Dear Friend Rachel Roisman

Photo: Patricia Quinlan, MPH, CIH
Rachel Roisman

Written by Carolyn Sufrin

Rachel Eleah Roisman, MD, MPH (MD Class of 2003) died of metastatic sarcoma on August 30, 2016, at her home in Berkeley, California. She was 42.

Rachel was born and raised in Washington, DC. She received her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Dartmouth College, where she was distinguished as senior fellow, studying birth control practices and providing reproductive health counseling in India. She then spent two years as a community organizer working on food security with a grass roots organization called Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency in Oakland, California. She then matriculated at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the only medical school to which she applied. During her time at Hopkins, she nurtured her commitments to public health, improving health inequalities, and social justice, through activities such as curriculum reform, leading Medical Students for Choice, and spending a year working at the patient safety advocacy organization Health Research Group - Public Citizen in Washington, DC.

Rachel completed her residency in internal medicine at the San Francisco General Hospital Primary Care program at the University of California, San Francisco, and her fellowship in Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of Washington where she also obtained her Master’s in Public Health degree. Always with an eye towards serving the underserved, Rachel was part of the emergency medical response efforts which responded in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

After her fellowship, Rachel joined the California Environmental Protection Agency and then the Department of Public Health where she led many investigations of work-related injury and illness, especially amongst the most vulnerable workers in California. In addition, Rachel helped to establish a unique training program focused on the underserved workforce for residents in occupational medicine at UCSF, and was a beloved mentor to many trainees. She continued to work clinically at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in San Francisco.

In addition to her professional accomplishments, Rachel was known for her ability to cultivate and nurture deep and lasting friendships. She was treasured by those who knew her for her extraordinary loyalty, quiet generosity, wry and at times dark sense of humor, and impeccable taste in food, which she shared with others at every chance. With a strong sense of adventure for new experiences, Rachel was an avid traveler. She was active in her local community, volunteering at the local animal rescue shelter and ultimately adopting two dogs, who gave her great comfort and joy.

Rachel chronicled her experience dealing with cancer and the health care system in an extraordinarily poignant, biting, and insightful blog: Cancer Without Walkathons. As she said before her untimely death, she wanted people to know that “she tolerated cancer until she didn’t.” Rachel Roisman was, quite simply, one of a kind.

Her loss is felt deeply by a vast and connected network of adoring friends and colleagues; her loving family including her mother, Florence Roisman, father, Tony Roisman, siblings Abram Roisman and BJ Roisman; her treasured dogs Cleo and Frankie; and her beloved husband Jason Koenig.

Donations can be made in her memory to Planned Parenthood, NARAL and Partners in Health.

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