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He Delighted in Wry Observations and Offered Boundless Encouragement

William Savedoff, Bath, Maine

It is hard for me to believe Phil is gone. The hole he leaves behind is so very large. Phil appreciated friends, humor, and analytical twists. His criticism could be sharp but the encouragement he offered people was also boundless. I’ve heard so many stories over the years from people who sought him out for advice and really appreciated his support – whether a PhD student looking for a dataset or a Health Minister seeking advice on a massive reform effort.

Here are just a few of the professional parts that I know about Phil. He was at the Brookings Institution, PAHO, the World Bank, and WHO-Geneva. He was the global health editor for Health Affairs when he died. He was a key part of the World Bank’s 1993 World Development Report special issue on health, as well as the Disease Control Priorities Projects and the 2000 World Health Report. He published extensively on health policy in developing countries, but also did research on consumption theory (e.g. “Income Distribution and the Aggregate Consumption Function,” Journal of Political Economy 1980). His tongue-in-cheek paper, “Why Everything Takes 2.71828 Times as Long as Expected” (American Economic Review 1985), perfectly captures the delight he took in transforming wry observations about life into useful and fun insights by playing with them, through puns, mathematics, and even poetry. He never told me how he convinced the American Economic Review to print it. If I had asked him, I’m certain the telling of the story would have been a joy in itself.

He was at home culturally and linguistically in many places – certainly in Colombia and Brazil, but in many other places as well. People knew him in very different ways, none of us having the true measure of the man.

All I can say is: He was my friend and I miss him deeply.


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