Profile: Deborah N. Wallace

Deborah Wallace holds several jobs concurrently: senior project leader at Consumers Union, consultant to the Center for Urban Epidemiological Studies at the New York Academy of Medicine, and co-worker with Rodrick Wallace. Deborah’s interests include health inequalities of populations and geographic areas, dynamics of disease spread, and the interaction between socio- economic factors and environmental exposures.

Deborah Wallace holds a BA degree from Barnard College and a Ph.D. in ecology from Columbia University. Her study of firefighters who fought the NY Telephone Exchange Fire in 1975 was an introduction to the importance of fires to health in the urban process.

She and her husband/co-worker (Rodrick Wallace) analyzed the impacts of the 1970 s fire epidemic in New York City at the neighborhood, municipality, and metropolitan regional levels, including health and public order outcomes. They co-authored two books ( Studies of the Collapse of Fire Service in New York City 1972-1976: Impacts of Pseudoscience on Public Policy, published in 1978; and A Plague on Your Houses: How New York City Was Burned Down and National Public Health Crumbled, published in 1998. She was sole author of the book In the Mouth of the Dragon: Toxic Fires in the Age of Plastics, published in 1990. She authored or co-authored scores of papers in peer-reviewed journals about the geography of infectious and chronic diseases in cities and metropolitan areas with emphasis on the influence of social and economic structural factors. She was the first to describe the 1979-1993 tuberculosis epidemic in New York City spatio-temporally and identify it as a combination of spatial and hierarchical spread. She has published in American Journal of Public Health, Social Science and Medicine, Fire Technology, Environment and Planning A, and other journals, including the Journal of Irreproducible Results (scientific humor). Deborah, her husband, Rod, and their son Rob have a new book (Springer-Verlag) coming out in late March, 2009: Farming Human Pathogens: Ecological Resilience and Evolutionary Process.

Deborah s current interests are the geographies of obesity and asthma and of HIV/AIDS deaths in New York City neighborhoods; economic insecurity and obesity, unemployment and risk behaviors in communities; and interactions of national, regional, and local socioeconomic factors in the health disparities among neighborhoods. She was until recently a research associate in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health (Columbia University).

Deborah may be contacted at

Updated: February 2009