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August 13th 2021

Eulogy for Robert “Bob” Rinsky

The Collegium Ramazzini sadly announces the death of former CR Fellow, Robert "Bob" rinsky. Click below to read the words of the eulogy prepared for him by the CDC.  

It is with profound sadness that we announce the death of former CDC employee Robert “Bob” Rinsky.

 Bob was a research epidemiologist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) from 1975 to 2000. His research included studies of leukemia in naval shipyard workers, lung cancer among radiation workers, and mortality among uranium enrichment workers.

 

He is most known for his early works with other NIOSH scientists on what became landmark occupational health research confirming the link between benzene exposure and deaths from leukemia. Despite the industry challenging the research findings and the US Supreme Court’s ruling that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had not shown that lowering the benzene exposure limit would save lives based on the findings, Bob and his NIOSH colleagues successfully dug deeper into their data to show that the risk of leukemia deaths had risen with increased benzene exposure and reducing benzene exposure would result in decreasing leukemia deaths among industry workers. Their findings prevailed and established the practice of quantitative risk assessment. 

 

Bob authored or co-authored 30 peer-reviewed scientific papers and 17 government technical reports. He was also elected to the Collegium Ramazzini in recognition of his scientific achievements, especially for his work on benzene.

 
Bob also filled multiple science and leadership roles at NIOSH, including serving as branch chief of the Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance Branch (HETAB). As HETAB’s senior epidemiologist, he was responsible for scientific review of all NIOSH hazard evaluation investigations and reports.

 

During his career, Bob engaged with and mentored countless scientists. NIOSH retiree David Utterback remembers, “What stays with me from our time together at NIOSH is his tireless sharing of knowledge with any and all. I worked next to Bob's office, so I saw many colleagues converse with him on countless topics about science, personal responsibility, and human rights.” 

 

One of the many young professionals who benefited from Bob’s wisdom was James Couch. “Bob rarely, if at all, spoke of his achievements. Interwoven into his achievements is the way Bob fundamentally changed occupational safety and health’s history through kindness, compassion, and his favorite tool, humor. No matter how busy he was, Bob spent countless hours with numerous researchers (both young and senior) as a mentor and friend,” James recalled.

 

After leaving NIOSH, Bob continued serving in public health as editor of Public Health Reports (PHR) from 2000 to 2008. “It was his passion, energy, and strong leadership that enhanced the scientific caliber, relevance, objectivity, and independence of PHR that secured the publication’s place as a well-respected and revitalized journal of public health,” said Laurence (Larry) Reed,
former NIOSH scientist and PHR editor.

 

Bob taught epidemiology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, the University of Kentucky, and was a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. He also served for one term as chairperson of the Cincinnati Department of Health’s Board of Health.

  

In 2008, Bob officially stopped his work in public health to devote time to his family, farm, and other interests. However, on occasion, he still published articles in Public Health Reports. Upon fully retiring, Bob is remembered for saying, “I have been working hard for a long time, and the parts of my life that mercifully have been patiently waiting are now going to get their due.” He looked forward to what he estimated to be more than 30 years of pent-up chores and devoting his time to being a good husband, father, and community member.

 

Longtime friend and former NIOSH colleague David Brown recalled that Bob had an abundance of skills. “He was a woodworker, an auto mechanic, and fixed almost anything, as he often did for me. He was a Renaissance man in that regard and was always happy to share his talents to help others,” David shared. “Bob's community engagement extended to his neighbors that often involved ‘porch time’ and sharing of equipment, tools, and practical knowledge,” he added.

 

You may add your memories and condolences to Bob’s Memorial Tribute on CDC Connects or to his tribute page on the Weil Kahn Funeral Home webpage.

 

For questions concerning this announcement, please contact James Couch (513) 841-4318.

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