In memoriam: Stanislav Kasl

Internationally recognized psychosocial epidemiologist Stanislav V. “Stan” Kasl, a professor at the Yale School of Public Health for 42 years, died at home and surrounded by family on June 9. He was 78 years old.

Kasl, who was known in particular for his work on the psychosocial epidemiology of aging and mental health epidemiology, served as director of the Social and Behavioral Science Program from 2002 to 2003 and as head of the Division of Chronic Disease Epidemiology from 2003 to 2009.

He researched and wrote widely on many issues pertaining to psychosocial epidemiology, the study of social and psychological risk factors for physical illness. In addition to seminal research on job loss and stress, his research interests — reflected in more than 300 publications — included incidence of disease, course of illness and disability, psychiatric epidemiology, the study of risk factors for psychiatric outcomes, and aspects of mental health and well-being. Among his accomplishments, Kasl’s work contributed to the understanding of determinants of mortality, morbidity and disability in elderly individuals and elderly couples, race differences in cancer stage at diagnosis, as well as to screening behaviors and survival, and influences of religious dimensions on health and functioning.

He received numerous awards for his research and mentorship including a Lifetime Career Achievement Award, co-conferred by the American Psychological Association, the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, and the Society for Occupational Health and Psychology. He also received the Distinguished Mentor Award, presented by the Behavioral and Social Sciences Section of the Gerontological Society of America.

Kasl was known for being very supportive of his mentee’s research and career aims, always having an open door policy to his trainees and colleagues, and providing honest and perceptive guidance. Throughout his career, he worked as advisor and mentor for about 40 doctoral students and 60 post-doctoral students. He supported many of his mentees with two training grants he was awarded, one from the National Institute on Aging and one from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Kasl was born in Prague, in the former Czechoslovakia, in 1934 and moved with his parents and sister to Marienbad in 1945. The family later escaped from the communists by walking across the border into Germany in 1948. He was sent to live on a farm in Switzerland while the rest of his family was relocated to a refugee camp in Italy. After about a year he rejoined his family in Milan, where they waited for permission to immigrate to the United States. Immigration papers were issued in 1950 and the family arrived by boat later that year.

He earned his bachelor’s degree (summa cum laude) from Yale University in 1957 and his Ph.D. in social psychology in 1962 from the University of Michigan. He worked for several years at the University of Michigan as a researcher in the Institute for Social Research before joining the faculty at the School of Public Health in 1969 as an associate professor.

At Yale, Kasl became a professor in 1974 and served as the Director of Graduate Studies for a 10-year period beginning in 1984. Kasl had several appointments as a visiting professor, including one at the University of London in 1986 and another at the University of Tasmania in 1992.

He also served on numerous study sections, scientific advisory boards, and on the editorial boards of many prestigious journals including the American Journal of Epidemiology, Journal of Behavioral Medicine, Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, and the International Journal of Psychiatry and Medicine. Kasl was a member of the American Public Health Association, the Gerontological Society of America, the Society for Epidemiologic Research, the International Epidemiological Association, and the American Psychosomatic Society.

He enjoyed hiking, traveling and sharing fine meals and wine with colleagues and family. Kasl retired from Yale in 2011 and became an emeritus professor. He died from cancer complications with his family nearby.

Kasl is survived by his wife, Dr. Elizabeth Kasl, his daughter, Dr. Julia Kasl-Godley, his son, Jan Kasl, and three grandchildren: Brooke, Sierra, and Autumn Kasl-Godley.