Ralph R. Frerichs

Dr. Frerichs is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Epidemiology and past Chair twice of the Faculty Executive Committee at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. He was Chair of the Division of Epidemiology (1988) and then founding Chair (1989-2001) of the Epidemiology Department when it changed in 1989 from a division in a single-department School of Public Health (SPH), and served in that capacity for 12 years, resigning in 2001 to return to the general faculty. He was also Chair of the UCLA Education Abroad committee, a post he held from 2003 until 2005. Following retirement in November, 2008, Professor Frerichs has immersed himself in photography; continued to maintain the department's John Snow website; taught the internet summer version of EPI 100 Principles of Epidemiology (2009-2011); conducted a workshop on rapid community-based surveys for the CDC program in Tbilisi, Georgia (May 2010); researched and published Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-Up in Post-Earthquake Haiti (Cornell University Press, 2016); and developed and maintained the Deadly River website, complementing the book with maps, photos, graphics, and new information from 2014 forward. 

Dr. Frerichs has pioneered the development of microcomputer applications for management oriented epidemiologists and decision-makers in less-developed countries. Included among these applications are rapid community-based surveys, epidemiologic spreadsheet models for focused research, and epidemiologic surveillance methods. He also has developed HIV sentinel surveillance strategies, and evaluated tests for rapid, non-invasive HIV assessment to be used for surveillance and screening purposes.

Earlier in his career while assistant professor at LSU Medical School, Dr. Frerichs served as epidemiologist with the landmark Bogalusa Heart Study, a long-term population study (almost 40 years, NIH-funded) headed by cardiologist and Bogalusa native Gerald S. Berenson, MD in the bi-racial community of Bogalusa, Louisiana. Dr. Frerichs conducted numerous cohort and cross-sectional studies in Bogalusa, determining the natural history of cardiovascular risk factors in both black and white children from birth through the high school years. Since coming to UCLA, he was principal investigator (PI) of a large cohort study of Los Angeles adults to assess the epidemiology of mental depression and help-seeking behavior, PI of an extensive environmental investigation to study the health effects of recycled wastewater, and other smaller domestic and international studies. 

In past decades, Dr. Frerichs has consulted on epidemiological and management-related issues with many international agencies including the Albert Schweitzer Foundation, Population Council, Family Health International, Management Sciences for Health, UN, WHO, USAID and CDC in 16 countries: Colombia, Bolivia, Honduras, Brazil, Kenya, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Mongolia, Federated States of Micronesia and the country of Georgia.

In 1992 Professor Frerichs received the Outstanding Alumnus Award from Tulane University, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. In 1997, he received jointly with Professor Roger Detels the Prestigious Plaque for HIV/AIDS Education from the Ministry of Public Health, Thailand and the College of Public Health, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. 

Professor Frerichs has chronicled on the internet the life and times of John Snow, the prominent British epidemiologist. Included are a series of maps that present space and time descriptions of John Snow's London. Public fascination with John Snow was driven by the highly popular book The Ghost Map (2006) by Steven Johnson who in a public session discussed his writings, cholera, epidemiology and more with Dr. Frerichs at the UCLA affiliated Hammer Museum. Frerichs has also documented the United States anthrax outbreak of 2001 as part of his website on epidemiology and bioterrorism, presenting news and commentaries. Professor Frerichs has been a strong advocate for early HIV detection at the personal and community level and has shared widely his views in written and electronic communication. His interest in Haiti began in 2010, following the suspicious onset of what would soon become the world’s greatest cholera outbreak. Wondering if a modern John Snow might be out there to assist Haiti led to his subsequent friendship with French epidemiologist Dr. Renaud Piarroux and their collaboration in Deadly River. Finally, he is very interested in the broad use of the internet for education of epidemiologic concepts and principles, focusing on UCLA students, health professionals and the general public.

Professor Frerichs has two adult children, Peter and Christine. He was widowed in March 2001, following 33 years of marriage to Marcy M. Frerichs. In September 2003 he married Rita J. Flynn in Florence, Italy. The couple resides in Sierra Madre, California, at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains.


  • BS, Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, 1965
  • DVM, Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, 1967
  • MPH, Epidemiology, Tulane University, 1970
  • DrPH, Epidemiology, Tulane University, 1973