Eva J. Salber

Eva J. Salber, MD

Eva SalberEva Salber was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1916. In 1938, she graduated from the University of Cape Town Medical School, where she subsequently earned post-graduate degrees in medicine and public health. In South Africa, she worked in several clinical settings mainly with low-income populations. In 1946, she joined the new Institute of Family and Community Health established for training and research in support of a national health care program. At that time, her focus was on the social aspects of child rearing as seen from a multi-racial perspective.
Troubled by the development of aggressive apartheid policies in their native land, Eva Salber, her physician husband, and their four young children immigrated to the United States in 1956. In Boston she continued her interest in child health by conducting well baby clinics and doing research at the Harvard School of Public Health in breast feeding behavior, smoking among school children, and breast cancer epidemiology. In 1967, she was asked to develop and direct a new program under the aegis of the Boston Children’s Hospital in the Martha Eliot Community Health Center, a low-income housing project. In this setting, she effectively promoted the idea of partnership between the providers of health care and the community they served.
To this end she initiated a Health Advisory Committee and thereby encouraged the growth of mature community leaders, many of whom went on to more important roles in the state. Eva Salber continued with her research, now focusing on utilization of services and the growth of self-esteem among underprivileged people. Her studies resulted in published articles and the book, Caring and Curing: Community Participation in Health Services, (New York, Prodist, 1975).
Moving to North Carolina with her family in 1970, Eva Salber was appointed Professor, Department of Community and Family Medicine. She soon became involved in developing health services for a low-income population by serving as consultant to the Lincoln Hospital in Durham, which was in the process of converting from a segregated institution to a community health center. This was followed by research in utilization of health services in a rural community and a study of the lives of elderly people who lived alone in that area. The outcomes were published in journal articles and a book, "Don’t Send Me Flowers When I’m Dead: Voices of Rural Elderly" (Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 1983). In another project, Dr. Salber demonstrated her faith in the latent strengths of ordinary people by devising ways of identifying the natural helpers in health matters in the community and enhancing their effectiveness through special training programs. The techniques were described in the training manual, "Community Health Education: The Lay Advisor Approach," (Service C, and E.J. Salber, (Eds), Durham, NC, Duke University, 1977). In her last book, "The Mind is Not the Heart: Recollections of a Woman Physician," (Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 1989), she provided autobiographical sketches highlighting her experiences while working in South Africa, Boston, and North Carolina. Eva Salber died in Chapel Hill, NC, in 1991.
In both her private and her professional lives, Eva Salber displayed a remarkable empathy with and concern for other people. She had faith that with support, people can go a long way to improve their own well being. These qualities, combined with abundant energy, produced a radiant personality, which touched the lives of many who were fortunate enough to come within her reach.
The Eva J. Salber Award is given to one or more Duke third-year medical student(s) to enable them to acquire a community perspective in medicine. The award will provide partial support for a supervised project, the purpose of which is to investigate and improve the health of a disadvantaged population group. Up to 50 percent of the student’s award can be used for tuition expenses, and the rest, for expenses incurred while carrying out the project. No academic credit is given for this project. Proposals will be evaluated by a committee established by the Eva J. Salber Endowment Fund.