Former Public Health Professor Leona Shapiro Dies at 89


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Public health researcher and former UC Berkeley assistant professor Leona Shapiro passed away on Feb. 24 in her Berkeley home. She was 89.

Shapiro worked in the public health department at UC Berkeley for 29 years before retiring in 1987. She was known for her studies on childhood nutrition and the relationship between lifestyle factors and chronic disease.

Shapiro worked on the Berkeley Longitudinal Nutrition Study from 1969 to 1985, which observed children's nutritional patterns and contributed to research on childhood obesity.

"Now we have such focus on children who are eating their way into obesity rather than growing their way into it," said Shapiro's sister, Ruth Kadish. "It was really a remarkable study."

Shapiro published papers on nutrition and public health, including a 1983 study with Lester Breslow on lifestyle factors and chronic disease.

"That study really helped to provide the link ... diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol-all of those factors that we now know are very important," said Sarah Samuels, one of Shapiro's former graduate students and a co-author on the study.

Shapiro began lecturing at UC Berkeley in 1958 and earned her doctorate in public health in 1974. During her time here, she advised graduate students in the School of Public Health.

"She was very committed to being a mentor and really investing in her students and helping them achieve their goals," Samuels said.

In addition to her work at UC Berkeley, Shapiro was a nutritionist for the City of Berkeley Public Health Division and in 1968 was president of Berkeley's Friends of Portable Meals, an organization that brings meals to low-income and immobile individuals.

Shapiro retired from UC Berkeley in 1987 but remained active in the community through organizations such as the Rubicon Program and the Alpha Iota chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma.

"She was such a warm-hearted, wonderful woman who was compassionate and really loved her friends as dearly as we loved her," said Louetta Erlin, Delta Kappa Gamma member and one of Shapiro's close friends.

Kadish said she would remember Shapiro as generous and selfless, which was demonstrated by her service as a dietician in the army during World War II and her continued activism later in life.

"(She was) thoughtful, concerned with what was going on in everyday life, concerned with people, and concerned with society as a whole," Kadish said.


Contact Arielle Turner at [email protected]

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