Philip R. Nader M.D. (1936-2017)

Dr. Phil Nader passed away peacefully at his home on April 21, 2017, of complications associated with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Phil’s husband, Gary Fairbourn, and his daughter, Stephanie Nader, were at his bedside.

Phil was Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics, University of California, San Diego (BA Wooster College, MD University of Rochester) who contributed significantly to our understanding of scientific methods to improve cardiovascular health and the prevention of obesity in children and adolescents through community-based programs in nutrition and physical exercise. He was a Visiting Scholar at the Stanford University Institute for Communication Research, a Fogarty International Fellow, and a UC Investigator on Pacific Rim Indigenous Health.

Phil’s first academic appointment was at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. As chief of the Division of School Health and Community Pediatrics, he led a team of multidisciplinary investigators supported by a major grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of training programs in community pediatrics. Phil was recruited to the Department of Pediatrics at UCSD in 1982 as Chief of the Division of General Pediatrics. He expanded medical student and resident training in primary care pediatrics by developing programs that emphasized child development, behavior and family health. He was the founding Chief of Community Pediatrics in 1995 when he received a Dyson grant to expand the pediatric resident rotation in community pediatrics. Active participation by all pediatric trainees in community health clinics, public health agencies and programs for social justice had a major impact on the next generation of pediatricians. He was the president of the Academic Pediatric Association from 1982 to 1983.

Phil developed and directed several multi-disciplinary research teams examining longitudinal descriptive and randomized population-based interventions regarding physical activity and nutrition. He was Principal Investigator of three NIH-funded long-term longitudinal research programs, the Family Health Project, the San Diego Studies of Child Nutrition and Activity, and CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health), a national elementary school-based nutrition and activity intervention. These studies demonstrated the value of using behavioral based paradigms to positively influence nutrition and physical activity of children and youth in schools.

Early in his career at the University of Rochester, Phil discovered the value of school health programs in training pediatric residents and implementing studies to improve health in children and adolescents. He tapped a powerful connection to change not only students’ health-related behaviors but the health behaviors of their families.  The Family Health Project made inroads to our current understanding of how school-based community interventions can serve to prevent cardiovascular disease and obesity for entire communities. Phil developed a pediatric school health consultation service for the San Diego Unified School District, trained residents and fellows in school health over decades, and chaired the School Health Council of the American Academy of Pediatrics. His engagement of pediatricians in school-based health interventions has had a sustained impact locally, nationally and internationally.

Phil’s academic contributions include over 160 articles in peer-reviewed journals. In 2010, he published a guide for parents, You Can Prevent Childhood Obesity: Practical Ideas from Pregnancy to Adolescence (English and Spanish editions: It was developed into a facilitated curriculum, “Health: A Legacy for Our Children” (”Un Legado de Salud”), to assist communities to implement interventions to prevent childhood obesity.  In 2016, the Philip R. Nader Legacy of Health Lectureship was established at the University of Texas, School of Public Health in Houston. The purpose of the annual lectureship is to promote and inspire academicians, providers, public health students and community residents in the fields of primary prevention and community pediatrics.

Phil continued his work to promote healthy weight in children after retirement. He cofounded and co-led a foundation, Legacy of Health that directly helps parents and doctors to implement proven ways to assure a healthy weight starting before pregnancy and continuing through the toddler years ( Phil was a valued and trusted advisor to the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative from its inception in 2006. His forward thinking approach and focus on systems change proved to be a catalyst for innovation. Phil’s innovative influence resulted in surveillance for childhood obesity in San Diego County by tracking child body mass index within the San Diego Regional Immunization Registry. He had a keen eye for recognizing opportunities and was a leader in collective impact long before the term had even been coined. Dr. Nader convened key partners to participate in the Healthy Weight Collaborative, a project designed to create partnerships between primary care, public health, and community organizations to promote healthy weight and eliminate health disparities in the community of Western Chula Vista. This work helped pave the way for further investment by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve health in this high opportunity community.

Phil’s legacy includes mentoring numerous pediatricians and other health professionals with academic careers in medical education, school health, clinical pediatrics, public health and child advocacy. His leadership in population child health will continue through the Philip R. Nader Legacy of Health Lectureship established in 2016 at the School of Public Health at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston. In addition, Phil was an alumnus of the San Diego Master Chorale and his paintings were displayed at the UCSD Emeriti Association art exhibits.

Phil’s friends and colleagues will miss his positive energy, great sense of humor and love of life.

Gary and Phil’s children, Dr. Richard Nader and Stephanie Nader, suggest that donations in Phil’s memory may be sent to the “Philip Nader Memorial Fund – Legacy of Health” at University of California, Department of Pediatrics, San Diego, CA, 9500 Gilman Drive #0831, La Jolla , CA 92093-0831.  You can also give online here.


Join our mailing list

Access our
newsletter archive.

Join the Live Well @ Work newsletter

Privacy Policy