Dr. Bruce Dixon with stack of memos and mail at the Allegheny County Health Dept Dr. Bruce Dixon with AIDS patient, 1987 Dr. Bruce Dixon playing an old church organ at his house Dr. Bruce Dixon and his house in North Braddock, 2007 20th century card depicting the Schwab mansion owned by Dr. Dixon

1987: "Dr. Bruce Dixon: a physical healer, medical teacher and public health protector"

"People will remember Bruce [Dixon] as a dedicated public servant who provided very important medical expertise and never sought any… personal recognition and had no agenda of his own. His dedication combined with his medical knowledge and expertise were used to improve the quality of life and provide increased health safety for all of Allegheny County," Cyril H. Wecht, the former county coroner and renowned forensic pathologist who knew Dr. Dixon for 40 years, said on the day of Dr. Dixon’s death this week.

Bruce W. Dixon died on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2013. He was 74.

Dr. Dixon made it to the top of two professions: medicine and public health. He was a stellar diagnostician and a gifted professor as well as a dedicated leader and an exemplary manager of the Allegheny County Health Department.

After graduating from Wilkinsburg High School in 1956, Bruce W. Dixon entered Pitt and graduated from medical school in 1965.  He spent two years in the Air Force. And then for almost 10 years he worked and taught at the Duke University School of Medicine. In 1975, he returned home to Pittsburgh. 

In 1979, Dr. Dixon began his career in  public health when Pitt agreed that he could work one day a week at the Health Department’s Sexually Transmitted Disease clinic. His expertise and track record  earned him a title — Pittsburgh’s AIDS doctor; he was one of the few doctors who helped local AIDS-related organizations reach other members of the medical community. He was also a great source of information for the AIDS victims themselves.

Dr. Bruce Dixon’s life was stuffed into his left rear pocket, a Post-Gazette reporter wrote in 1987. “On any given day there will be 30 to 50 yellow phone message slips jammed into it, each one urging his response. In between lectures and patients, he would get in a phone call or two.”

He was quite a character. Notorious for his gray Hush Puppies, sophisticated sense of humor and his monogrammed ties, Dr. Dixon lived in a 22-room former Schwab mansion in North Braddock, which he bought in 1982. The restoration of the more-than-a-hundred-years-old house was somewhat of a hobby for Dr. Dixon. He did nearly all of the stripping, sanding, painting and wallpapering himself.

Dr. Dixon was a man of many talents. Yet most of them were hidden. According to the Post-Gazette, “few of his colleagues knew that he was an accomplished pipe organ player, and fewer still knew he was an avid butterfly collector.”

But hobbies aside, Dr. Dixon’s work was his life. He once said, “My vocation is simply my a-vocation,” and then added, “If you enjoy what you’re doing, I don’t think you have the need to get away.”

— Mila Sanina  

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