Rainer Arnhold

Rainer Arnhold

Rainer Arnhold was a physician, philanthropist, and inveterate traveler. He devoted his considerable efforts and energy to the well-being of those most vulnerable.

Rainer was born into a respected family of bankers in Dresden, Germany. To escape Nazi persecution, the family moved to Switzerland in 1937, and he attended school for several years in Zurich. After a circuitous passage through Portugal and Brazil, Rainer arrived in America in 1941. In 1943 he joined the U.S. Army. A skilled rider, he was recruited into the cavalry and served in Burma and India until 1946.

After the war, Rainer went to medical school in San Francisco. After pediatric training in New York and Sweden, he set up practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. Soon after, he established the pattern that was to hold for the rest of his life: a steady practice of hands-on pediatrics and clinical teaching punctuated by long and regular leaves of absence to work in the Third World.

Rainer's efforts were part of a heroic era in public health, a time when the response to waves of global crises led to the emergence of key solutions. In the chaotic refugee camps of Biafra, Somalia, and Pakistan, and on the Good Ship Hope, Rainer made important contributions to systematic approaches to child survival, and specifically to methods of detecting and treating malnutrition. Leveraging his hard-won knowledge, he taught medical students and health professionals in Peru, Bolivia, Uganda, Cameroon - and the inner city of San Francisco.

Rainer didn't see his work as hardship or sacrifice - there was nothing he'd rather do. He had a cast-iron constitution, and an insatiable curiosity about places and cultures. He carried all he needed in a small backpack, rode local buses, and was quite happy staying in dirt-floored huts. Self-deprecating and a born skeptic, he could be maddeningly modest about his own achievements, and he treated even the most humble village health worker as a respected colleague. Rainer's sympathies were always with the underdog, his concern for those most vulnerable - his work was simply an extension of his most basic impulses.

After many years of work in settings of chaos and crisis, Rainer began to focus on a secure and livable future for the world's children. While he never abandoned efforts to help those swept up by forces beyond their control, he developed an expanded view of health and well-being for children. Conservation and education were particular interests, and his teaching, volunteer efforts and financial support emphasized the need for holistic and sustainable solutions. On the day of his death in 1993, Rainer was doing what he loved best, hiking to a village in the Bolivian Andes with a group of medical students and local health workers. His was a life lived well, of service given gladly; a life that created innumerable ripples of change in the lives of those he taught, cared for, worked with and supported. The Rainer Arnhold Fellows Program commemorates his life and continues his work by giving those who follow in his steps the tools and resources to create lasting change.