Former Allegheny County Health Director Remembered

By Anita Srikameswaran

Many at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC are mourning the loss of Bruce Dixon, M.D., 74, who died early today. Before, after and during his tenure as director of the Allegheny County Health Department, Dr. Dixon taught hundreds of medical students and residents, and treated patients at the Oakland hospitals.

“Dr. Dixon was one of the most dedicated physicians I have known, and his devotion to patients was remarkable,” said Loren Roth, M.D.,M.P.H., associate senior vice chancellor for clinical policy and planning, University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, and professor of psychiatry, Pitt School of Medicine. “He was one of the brightest individuals to ever graduate from the School of Medicine, and he was revered for his diagnostic judgment and comprehensive medical knowledge. He was a character, and often a lot of fun.”

Bruce Dixon, M.D. (photo courtesy of
 Allegheny County Health Department)
Every night, Dr. Dixon would go home and read for an hour from the authoritative textbook on internal medicine to stay up to date, and he provided page numbers when he quoted from it, remembered John Mahoney, M.D., associate dean for medical education, Pitt School of Medicine.

“He was a really passionate teacher and his excitement and investment in the patient and in the trainee, whether a resident or student, was irresistible,” said Dr. Mahoney. “You couldn’t help but join forces with him to find out what was ailing the patient and to figure out how to help. I was one of his students 25 years ago, and I saw him continue to bring that enthusiasm and skill to new generations of medical students learning about public health.”

Dr. Dixon received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1961, and his medical degree in 1965, both from Pitt. He completed his internship and residency training at Duke University, where he stayed as a faculty member for several years. He returned to join the Pitt School of Medicine as an associate professor in 1975. He became the Health Department director in 1992, but retained his faculty position.

According to Lee Harrison, M.D., professor of medicine and epidemiology, as well as a long-time member of the Allegheny County Board of Health, “Bruce was a dedicated hard-working public figure who was a giant in the public health arena and a legend in Allegheny County.”