Joshua Hemmerich, PhD, was the first project manager I hired after I received my first grant as a new faculty member at the University of Chicago in 2004. He was recommended to me by a member of the Society of Medical Decision Making, Julie Goldberg, PhD, with whom Josh had worked at the University of Illinois-Chicago. As a cognitive psychologist with significant training in statistics, Josh was a perfect fit for my research agenda on the role of emotions in medical decision making for older cancer patients. Over the next decade, we became well-matched research colleagues as well as close friends.
Over that decade, as we co-authored 25 papers and successfully competed for several grants, we also shared innumerable conversations about life growing up in small towns in the Midwest, especially about playing sports under the demanding eye of tough-love fathers. Over the years, we attended many SMDM conferences together, and we even managed to attract one of the Founding Fathers of the field, Arthur Elstein, PhD, to join us as a mentor and a collaborator. We both marveled at our good-fortune to get to know such an important scholar who is also such a supportive mentor. We each continued to build our respective careers, with Josh becoming the Research Manager for our Section of Geriatrics & Palliative Medicine, and then joining as our first PhD-only hire onto the faculty, an unusual ascension for a staff member. When I became the Section Chief, we continued to expand our research, as Josh began building his own independent career, including as the Newsletter co-editor for SMDM. Although we had increasing less time to share on non-work-related discussions, we were both looking forward to contributing more to the field of medical decision making.
With his untimely passing, coming as a shock to us all, I will deeply miss having Josh around, both personally and professionally. In many ways, I am still struggling to figure out how to move our shared agenda ahead without him. He was a uniquely gifted person, combining the insights of a psychologist with the acumen of an excellent statistician. And for such a talented person, he we very down-to-earth and friendly, quick to tell a joke or to shoot the breeze about the latest in Cleveland versus Chicago sports.
One thing many may not know about Josh was his love of books. I always admired, when I stopped by his office to chat, his eclectic collection of books on a wide range of topics from statistics, to cancer, to history, psychology, and (of course) decision making. In honor of this collection, we have gathered the books he left behind and created the Joshua Hemmerich Memorial Library, which now lives in our Section Conference Room, for all to enjoy and to honor his memory.