The following is written by graduate student and Special Collections student worker Emily Schartz
To wrap up American Heart Health Month, we’re remembering University of Iowa professor, cardiologist, and researcher Richard Kerber (1939-2016). If you have noticed the white AED (Automated External Defibrillator) boxes around, you have seen Kerber’s long-lasting impact on our campus and community. Kerber was a pioneer in Echocardiography and CPR research, as well as a driving force in expanding public defibrillation programs.
Richard Kerber was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1939. He completed an undergrad degree in anthropology at Columbia 1960 and in June of that same year married Dr. Linda Kaufman Kerber, now retired professor of history. He went on to complete medical school at New York University, graduating with his medical degree in 1964.
After school, Kerber joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps and worked in both a mobile Army surgical hospital and a base hospital in Vietnam between 1967 and 1968. He was awarded the Bronze Star in 1968 for his service. After completing his medical education with a cardiology fellowship at Stanford University, Kerber joined the University of Iowa in 1971. He remained at the University of Iowa for the rest of his career.
At Iowa Kerber took on many roles, serving as Director of Echocardiography, as well as Associate Director of the Division of Cardiovascular medicine, from 1983-2008 and Interim Director from 2009-2012. He helped establish the CPR training program for UI Hospital staff and faculty and served on task forces and committees that established the UI Hospital’s Code Blue and CPR guidelines and policies.
Outside of the University of Iowa, Kerber remained involved in Echocardiography and CPR research. He served as the 11th President of the American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) from 1997-1999 and worked closely with colleagues in the American Heart Association (AHA), serving as chair of the AHA’s Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee. His work with these organizations and taskforces helped establish the standards used to train laypeople in CPR beyond the University of Iowa.
A well-loved professor and a dedicated researcher, Kerber published more than 250 articles as well as many book chapters and abstracts over the course of his career. He was in charge of the Cardiology Fellowship Program and mentored students participating in the Short-term Minority Student Research Training Summer Program for many years.
Though he gave many lectures over the course of his time at Iowa, he is perhaps best remembered for his “Deconstructing the Body: Medical Imaging, Medical Art and the Art of Medicine,” where he examined depictions of the body in art throughout history. You can certainly sense his sense of humor from some of the art he chose to include.
Kerber had many interests outside of academics. He is remembered as a successful clarinet player and participated in orchestras and chamber groups. He was also an avid cyclist and rode in RAGBRAI (the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) multiple times.
In 2017, the Richard E. Kerber HeartSafe Initiative was launched in memory of Kerber with the goal of expanding CPR and AED training for University of Iowa faculty and staff in non-medical buildings. In 2019, inspired by the HeartSafe Intitiative, the Rotary-Kerber HeartSafe Community Campaign was launched to expand community-member training in CPR and AED use in Iowa City and Coralville. These initiatives have certainly had an impact, Johnson County was just recognized as a HeartSafe Community by the Citizen CPR Foundation in January of this year and AEDs can be found in buildings all across campus.