Dr. Joel J. Alpert

May 9, 1930December 31, 2013

Joel J. Alpert, MD, of Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Wayland, MA and East Parsonsfield, ME. Professor and chair Emeritus of the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) Department of Pediatrics, assistant dean for student affairs, member of the BUSM Dean's Advisory Board (DAB), and chief of Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center (BMC) died Tuesday, December 31, 2013 of leukemia at the age of 83, born on May 9, 1930. Beloved husband of Barbara (Wasserstrom) Alpert. Devoted father of Norman Alpert and his wife Jane of Purchase, NY, Mark Alpert and his wife Michelle of Canton, Deborah Levin and her husband Steven of Wellesley. Adored grandfather of Caroline, Erin, Heidi, Adam and Natalie Alpert, Joshua and Zachary Levin and Samantha Alpert. Dear brother of Edith Slossberg and her husband Burton of Hamden, CT. Also survived by many nieces and nephews. Dr. Alpert was a recognized leader in pediatrics. During his 42 years at BUSM and BMC (and its precursor Boston City Hospital) he pioneered pediatric primary care training, including continuity clinic sites at community health centers and the development of a curriculum that emphasized child development, advocacy and community care. BUMC's pediatric resident training in primary care in health centers was among the first in the United States. A graduate of Hillhouse High School, New Haven, CT Class of 1948,Yale College Class of 1952 and Harvard Medical School Class of 1956. Dr. Alpert completed his residency at Boston Children's Hospital and also trained as an Exchange Registrar at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, UK from 1958 until 1959, he then served as Captain in the US Army at Ft. Leavenworth, KS from 1959 to 1961 and joined the Harvard faculty in 1961. He became professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at BUSM and Boston City Hospital in 1972. Dr. Alpert served as president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), where he received the AAP Job Lewis Smith Award in Community Pediatrics in 1994. He also served as president of the Ambulatory Pediatric Association (APA) and received the APA George Armstrong Award in 1992, the APA Lifetime Career Achievement Award in 2000, and the APA Public Policy and Advocacy Award in 2002. In 1992, the Massachusetts Poison Control System presented Dr. Alpert with a Lifetime Achievement Award and in 1998, he received the prestigious Pew Foundation Award for Achievement in Primary Care-Education. A member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences (IOM), Dr. Alpert served on the IOM Governing Council and was the pediatric clinician on the IOM Task Force on the Future of Primary Care. He was a member of the Society for Pediatric Research, Alpha Omega Alpha (Boston University) and the American Pediatric Society, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health (London). He authored numerous publications, including The Education of Physicians for Primary Care (1974), which included the definition of primary care adopted by the Bureau of Health Professions for Title VII training in general medicine, family medicine and pediatrics. In 2000, Dr. Alpert and his wife Barbara established the Joel and Barbara Alpert Professorship in Pediatrics at BUSM with the support of the Alpert family, the Department of Pediatrics, and their colleagues and friends. The professorship is held by the chair of the Department of Pediatrics. The first incumbent was Barry Zuckerman, MD, from 2000 to 2013. Robert Vinci, MD, was installed as the second Alpert Professor in June 2013. The Alperts also established the Children of the City Fund at BMC in 2000 to support early career pediatric researchers who study issues of importance to inner-city children served by the hospital. Services at Temple Isaiah, 55 Lincoln St., Lexington on Monday, January 6 at 10AM. Burial will follow at Westview Cemetery, 520 Bedford St., Lexington. Memorial observance will be at the home of Deborah and Steven Levin following burial until 4PM, continuing on Monday evening from 7-9PM then on Tuesday and Wednesday from 1:30-4PM and 7-9PM with services at 7:30PM. Memorial observance will also be at the home of Norman and Jane Alpert in Purchase, NY on Wednesday, January 8 and Thursday, January 9 from 5:30-9PM with services at 7PM. Minyan Services will take place at the home of Norman Alpert on Thursday morning, January 9 at 7AM and Friday morning, January 10th at 7AM. In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to the Joel and Barbara Alpert Children of the City Fund @ Boston University School of Medicine, 850 Harrison Ave., 5th Floor, Boston, MA 02118 or to a charity of one’s choice.


  • Funeral Service Monday, January 6, 2014

Dr. Joel J. Alpert

have a memory or condolence to add?

Mary Grassley

April 6, 2014

I apologize for the late entry. I only just discovered the news about Dr. Alpert. I was his "assistant" (my word - his word was "secretary") for about 4 years at BUMC/BCH. He was always bursting with an impressive amount of energy (hard to keep up with!). He deeply cared about his work and was a generous man. I feel lucky to have known and worked with him, and to have had to chance to get to know Barbara and members of his family. One of my favorite memories is going to his lake house in Maine. I still have the carpetbag he gave me on that trip, and think of him every time I use it. Barbara, I hope you are doing well now and are able to live with many fond memories of a great man.

Benard Dreyer

January 18, 2014

I was so saddened to learn of the death of this great pediatrician. I saw Joel at the AAP NCE and he was as vibrant as ever! What a loss to pediatricians and children everywhere. My deepest sympathies to his family.

Cindy Osman

January 14, 2014

It is easy for me to remember my first interaction with Joel Alpert. During my year as President of the American Medical Student Association I had heard many things about him from our sources on Capitol Hill and in the various federal agencies with which we worked. They described his energy, his innovations in pediatrics and pediatric education and, most importantly, his passion regarding access to healthcare for poor children. After all of the good things I had heard, I couldn't wait to meet him. From practically the first minute of his session with a group of us applying for a residency position at Boston City Hospital (BCH), he announced that it was outrageous that the US did not yet have a national health program to provide health care for all. And off we went!

Ultimately I did my training at BCH during the last years of Dr. Alpert's time as Chair of the Pediatrics Department. On top of the practice of pediatrics ("Don't forget to percuss the chest!"), we were taught that advocacy -- at the individual, local, state and national levels -- was essential to addressing the varied issues faced by our patients. Conferences were not only a time to share clinical and research information, but also a time to hear legislative updates as well.

I feel thankful for Joel's consistent mentorship, opinionated politics, passionate advocacy and playful sense of humor. He took me under his wing and helped me with my first research efforts. He was a giant in the field and an inspiration for so many of us.

Susan Colman

January 10, 2014

Thank you to Norm Alpert for clarifying on the office in Arlington -- my heartfelt condolences on the loss of your dear father. He was loved by many and will be in the hearts of so many adults who appreciated his kindness when they were children.

Buce Papier

January 10, 2014

Dear Barbara,
I was deeply saddened to hear of our loss. My condolences to you and all of the family.

January 10, 2014

Sorry to hear of the loss of one of our dearest customer.
From Stan's Men Salon.

Constantine Rockas

January 7, 2014

Dear Barbara and Family,
We were saddened to hear of Dr. Alpert's passing. We have fond memories of your family at our gatherings in Winchester.. May his memory be eternal.

With deepest sympathy.

Your neighbors,
Custer Rockas
Dianne Rockas Leary

January 7, 2014

We were so sorry to learn of Joel's untimely passing. We so enjoyed getting to know you both in Parsonsfield and Ann so admired Joel's outstanding advocacy for kids during his tenure at the AAP. He will be missed but always remembered.
Ann Stark and Peter Kadetsky

jim kelley, amie knox and family

January 7, 2014

To Norm, Barbara, and the extended Alpert family, we are so sorry for the passing of Joel. But, we're also happy for you to have lived in the presence of this remarkable man. We met Joel shortly after Norm and I met now 30 years ago. Since then, we've been connected each year as he would send us a handwritten note reminding us to support Children of the City. But, since we shared similar public policy affinities, his main purpose of the note was to summarize briefly what went right and what went wrong with the policy makers each year. We didn't always get it right. He was ahead of his time in understanding the current crisis in health care policy. Most importantly, by all I read, and know as well from Norm, he had great capacity for compassion for those less fortunate. He left the world a better place.

January 7, 2014

Dear Alpert Family,

We were so sorry to hear that Dr. Alpert had passed away. He was the Pediatrician for our four children beginning in 1967. We knew at once we were dealing with someone special when Dr. Alpert made a house call to our Winchester home to prevent the hospitalization of our son. He made a major impact on our family and we were always impressed with his dedication to his profession.
I attended the service yesterday and it was a wonderful tribute to a great man.

The Kelley Family
Needham MA