You might conclude, judging by the media fixation on whoever says the most incendiary and idiotic things the loudest, that deep thinking about hard issues has gone utterly out of style.

Emily Friedman proved otherwise. In her writing for this publication and others, she challenged us to examine, dissect and understand the most complex and challenging issues in one of the most complex and challenging areas of our lives — health care. She drew on a lifetime of observation and study — and, yes, deep thinking.

Emily died May 15 at age 68. The rest of this column is drawn from a tribute written by Rick Hill, Emily’s longtime editor at the online H&HN Daily, where it originally appeared after we learned of her death.

Emily was a contributing editor of Hospitals & Health Networks and a regular columnist for H&HN Daily. She had a large and loyal following for her bimonthly commentaries, which routinely elicited responses from well-known thought leaders in the field. Her readers could always count on her for thorough research and cogent analysis of the health care issues of the day.

Emily also contributed articles to the Journal of the American Medical AssociationHealth Progress and other periodicals. Her writing career spanned more than three decades and produced more than 800 articles and books.

“No one knew more about the history, the inherent counterforces and the sometimes tattered social fabric of health care than Emily did,” said Mary Grayson, former editorial director at Health Forum. “But equally important, no one had greater respect and affection for the people who work in health care than Emily did. We have lost an important voice and a good friend.”

She served as adjunct assistant professor of bioethics at the Boston University School of Public Health Department of Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights. She also lectured at several major universities and was a Rockefeller Fellow in Ethics at Dartmouth College in 1987-88.

“The field of public health and health care ethics lost a great thinker, writer, champion of the underserved and friend with the passing of Emily Friedman,” said Mary Pittman, president of the Public Health Institute. “Never shying away from engaging policymakers, Emily challenged vague, unsubstantiated claims for why the right thing was not being done to assure healthy options for everyone and presented her own well-researched reasons why it could and should be done. Emily’s knowledge and concerns spanned many topics and was global in its reach.”

The American Hospital Association recognized Emily as an Honorary Life Member, a distinction she also received from the American Medical Association. Her writing awards included a National Award of Excellence from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and a Gold Award from the American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors.

“Emily Friedman had a knack for making complicated issues simple and speaking the truth, no matter how unpopular it might be,” said Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the AHA. “As an author and lecturer, her role was to eloquently and provocatively urge health care providers to look beyond all the sophisticated machinery, miraculous medicines and treatments — to the core of what a hospital does: taking care of people, one patient at a time. She will be sorely missed.” 

To read a collection of her work, visit www.hhnmag.com/emily-friedman.