November 16, 2023

The passing of Joe LaDou, MD, UCSF emeritus professor and leader in occupational and environmental medicine

Dear colleagues:
We are saddened to let you know that Joseph “Joe” LaDou, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at UCSF, died on November 10th after a brief illness. He was 85 years old. 
Joe LaDauJoe was born in Salem, Oregon, to parents who had ventured west looking for opportunity during the Great Depression. He was raised in San Diego, A person sitting in a chair

Description automatically generatedthen moved to San Francisco for medical school at UCSF. Joe joined our faculty in the mid-1960s, launching a practice in occupational medicine in the region that came to be known as Silicon Valley. In 1983, he became the founding chief of our Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Joe was a passionate advocate for workers in the U.S. and internationally, and an inspiration for occupational and environmental health activists everywhere. His activism began when he noticed patients in his clinic suffering from the effects of toxic chemicals commonly used by the semiconductor industry. In 1984, he authored the first article describing the lack of protections for workers in that industry. He later helped found the International Campaign for Responsible Technology (ICRT) and spearheaded efforts to control occupational and environmental hazards around the world. In the last month of his life, Joe presented a paper on the semiconductor industry at a conference in Italy, fulfilling his promise to never stop fighting for workers’ rights to a healthy workplace.
Joe made many contributions to the literature. He served as editor of his field’s major textbook, Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Occupational & Environmental Medicine, and was the founding editor of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health. He authored nearly 100 peer-reviewed articles, the last one when he was 82 years old.
In addition to his career accomplishments, Joe was widely known for his generosity, sense of humor, and mentorship. Colleagues knew him as the person who would connect anyone with just the right person or opportunity to further their career.
Joe moved to Aspen, Colorado in 1993, after years of visiting in the summers to attend the Aspen Music Festival. His greatest joys were traveling, good food, classical music, fine art, museums, and hiking. He hiked Aspen Mountain every morning, sun or snow, for 30 years. He is survived by his daughters, Ana and Marisa, two granddaughters, and his sister, Leah. In lieu of flowers or gifts, please consider a donation to the International Campaign for Responsible Technology (ICRT) or the Halo Trust.

Bob Harrison, MD, MPH
Clinical Professor of Medicine
Division of Occupational, Environmental, and Climate Medicine, UCSF
Paul Blanc, MD, MSPH
Professor and Chief, Division of Occupational, Environmental, and Climate Medicine, UCSF
Robert M. Wachter, MD
Professor and Chair, Department of Medicine, UCSF