Kerr, Lorin Edgar, 1909-

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Lorin E. Kerr received a B.A. from the University of Toledo in 1931 and an M.D. (1935) and a M.S.P.H. (1939) from the University of Michigan. He worked for the U.S. Public Health Service from 1944 until 1948, when he began working for the Welfare and Retirement Fund of the United Mine Workers. Kerr was the founder and first director of the U.M.W.A.'s Department of Occupational Health and was influential in the passage of legislation to compensate coal miners suffering from black lung disease.

Lorin Kerr has been a leader in the field of occupational health for more than four decades. Born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1909, he was educated at the University of Toledo (B.A., 1931) and the University of Michigan (M.D., 1935; M.S.P.H., 1939). From 1937 to 1944 he served in a number of municipal and county public health departments in Ohio and Michigan. Kerr joined the United States Public Health Service in 1944, first in the War Food Administration and later in the Industrial Hygiene Division. While with the Industrial Hygiene Division he provided consultant services for labor unions which were then beginning to develop their own medical care programs.

In October 1948 Kerr joined the newly formed Welfare and Retirement Fund of the United Mine Workers of America, accepting an appointment as an area medical administrator in Morgantown, West Virginia. From 1951 to 1969 he served as assistant to the medical director of the Welfare and Retirement Fund. While with the fund Kerr developed the U.M.W.A. Department of Occupational Health, the first occupational medical program to be established by a major labor union. He was appointed as the first director of the department in 1969, a position he has continued to hold.

Kerr's work with the United Mine Workers has had an important impact on legislation and on the medical and public health professions, and it has contributed to a national awareness of the significance of environmental and occupational health standards. Occupational dust disease, especially coal workers' pneumonoconiosis (black lung), was one of Kerr's major concerns from the beginning of his employment with the Welfare and Retirement Fund, and it became his primary responsibility after his appointment as director of the Department of Occupational Health. He recognized that respiratory impairment in coal miners is attributable to coal dust, even though black lung, unlike other diseases, is not always verifiable through pathological tests. By seeking recognition of, and compensation for, black lung disease he was responsible for helping to create a much broader definition of the relationship between occupation and disease. Largely through Kerr's efforts black lung became recognized as a disease entity, and he played an active role in the passage of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 and its amendment in 1972. The 1969 act created a black lung compensation program for coal miners, and the 1972 amendment extended benefits to all miners with fifteen or more years of service who suffered respiratory impairment, whether or not pneumonoconiosis was pathologically verifiable.

In addition to his service with the United Mine Workers, Kerr has advocated and supported the development of occupational and environmental health programs through a variety of other activities. He held an appointment as a visiting professor at Howard University College of Medicine from 1952 to 1976; he has participated actively in the American Public Health Association (president, 1974), the Group Health Association of America (president, 1966-1968), and other professional medical care organizations. Since 1970 he has served on the Advisory Council to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare on Coal Mine Health Research and has appeared frequently before Congressional committees as an advocate and expert witness on occupational and environmental health issues.

From the guide to the Lorin Edgar Kerr papers, 1941-1981, (Manuscripts and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Goldie Krantz papers, 1928-1977 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Lorin Edgar Kerr papers, 1941-1981 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Isidore Sydney Falk papers, 1918-1984 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Edwin Richard Weinerman papers, 1908-1970 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Krantz, Goldie, 1915-1976. Goldie Krantz papers, 1928-1977 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Caldwell B. Esselstyn papers, 1945-1964 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Labor Health Association. corporateBody
associatedWith American Public Health Association. corporateBody
associatedWith District of Columbia. Health Department. corporateBody
associatedWith Esselstyn, Caldwell B., 1902-1975 person
associatedWith Falk, Isadore Sydney, 1899-1984 person
associatedWith Group Health Association of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Group Health Institute. corporateBody
associatedWith Howard University. corporateBody
associatedWith Krantz, Goldie, 1915-1976. person
associatedWith National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. corporateBody
associatedWith National Institute on Rehabilitation and Health Services. corporateBody
associatedWith Public Health Association (Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith United Mine Workers of America. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Dept. of Health and Human Services. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Dept. of Labor. corporateBody
associatedWith Weinerman, Edwin Richard, 1917-1970 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Retirement income
Medicaid--Washington, D.C
Environmental health
Medical care
Labor and laboring classes--Medical care
Occupational diseases
Trade-unions--Health facilities
Lung--Dust diseases
Old age pensions
Industrial safety--Law and legislation
Labor unions and public health
Coal miners and mining
Public health
Health officers


Birth 1909

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SNAC ID: 49028535