By Rebecca Bowers
James Trussell, PhD, one of the original authors of Contraceptive Technology and member of the Contraceptive Technology Update editorial advisory board, died Dec. 26, 2018, following a brief illness.
Trussell spent his entire academic career serving on the Princeton University faculty. He was involved for 25 years with the University’s Office of Population Research, serving as a faculty research associate from 1975 to 2015, and as director 1992-1998 and 2002-2011. He also was affiliated with the University’s Woodrow Wilson School, serving as associate dean, acting dean, and multiple directorships of the school’s MPA and PhD programs.
A Columbus, GA, native, Trussell earned degrees from Davidson College and the University of Oxford prior to his 1975 doctoral degree from Princeton University. He published three books prior to his graduation. The first book, Doctor, Am I a Virgin Again? featured a preface by soon-to-be president Jimmy Carter. The Loving Book, coauthored with Steve Chandler, sought to develop a new understanding of birth control and human sexuality, while Women in Need, coauthored with Robert Hatcher, focused on the need for family planning to alleviate the effects of unintended pregnancies.
Trussell’s lifelong work centered around the study of demographic methods and mathematical models of population. He was involved in the publication of a series of seminal papers that developed model schedules of fertility and techniques for the indirect estimation of birth rates given incomplete data. His work spanned the breadth of reproductive health, looking at methods for estimating mortality, age at first marriage, the economic consequences of teenage childbearing, and spline interpolation of demographic data, natural fertility, and contraceptive failure. His contributions to papers on emergency contraception, contraceptive failure, and the cost-effectiveness of contraception were included in more than 350 scientific publications. He was a fellow of the Population Council, the Guttmacher Institute, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and was named an honorary fellow at the University of Edinburgh and a visiting professor at the Hull York Medical School in England.
At the National Academy of Sciences, Trussell contributed to the work of the Committee on HIV Prevention Strategies in the United States, the Committee on Antiprogestins, the Committee on National Statistics, and the Committee on Population. He also was involved with the Panel on Data and Research Priorities for Arresting AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Panel on Monitoring the Social Impact of the AIDS Epidemic, the Panel on Census Methodology, the Panel on Census Requirements in the Year 2000 and Beyond, the Panel on the 1990 Census, the Panel on Immigration Statistics, the Panel on Small Area Estimation, the Panel on the 1980 Census, and the Panel on Latin America. He also served for seven years on the Council of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (1998-2005).
Trussell was a leader in the successful effort to get emergency contraceptive pills available to women, including teenagers, over the counter and without a prescription. He maintained a website about emergency contraception (not-2-late.com) and created a toll-free emergency contraception hotline. He was a member of the National Medical Committee of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a member of the board of directors of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Society of Family Planning, the International Federation of Professional Abortion and Contraception Associates, and the Women on Web Foundation. In 2012, Trussell received the Felicia Stewart Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception and the American Society for Emergency Contraception.
In 2015, Trussell retired from Princeton University as the Charles and Marie Robertson Professor of Public and International Affairs. He remained active in the reproductive health field, serving as deputy editor of Contraception and continuing to publish in leading reproductive health journals.
“I first met James the summer before he went off to college, as he was working for the Muscogee County Health Department in its environmental services division,” says Robert Hatcher, MD, MPH, professor emeritus of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta and chairman of the CTU editorial advisory board. “He walked into my office and said he wanted to work the next summer with me in family planning.”
“This led to 30 summer programs and 600 young people learning about the challenges of providing and using contraceptives — many of them went on to make this field their career,” reflects Hatcher. “James lives on in my heart, and I will always consider him a dear friend.”