Honoring Dr. Douglas Kirby

Dr. Douglas Kirby

Douglas Bernard Kirby, PhD, was a senior research scientist at ETR Associates and a pillar in the field of adolescent sexual and reproductive health. 

Dr. Kirby received his PhD in Sociology from UCLA in 1975. He was one of the world’s leading experts on school and community programs to reduce sexual risk taking, and dedicated his career to promoting sexual and reproductive health among young people through his writing, teaching, and research. He authored over 150 articles, chapters and monographs on these programs, and frequently spoke nationally and internationally on his work. He served as a scientific adviser to the CDC, USAID, WHO, UNFPA, UNESCO, and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Dr. Kirby died of a heart attack in December 2012, at age 69, while mountain climbing in Ecuador. His legacy continues to inform and transform the field.

Dr. Kirby’s career started in 1977 at Mathtech, Inc., as Director for the Social Science Group. In the early 1980s, Dr. Kirby completed a seminal study on the impact of school-based health centers while working at The Center for Population Options (now Advocates for Youth). Dr. Kirby joined ETR Associates in 1988 and continued his work in adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Dr. Kirby was involved in the creation and/or evaluation of numerous sex and HIV education curricula including Reducing the Risk, Safer Choices, and Draw the Line/Respect the Line, among others. He authored several encyclopedic reviews of the scientific literature, such as Emerging Answers 2007, which summarized the literature on adolescent sexual behavior and HIV/STD/pregnancy prevention programs. This work facilitated access to scientific research and paved a pathway for progress toward more effective prevention programs. More recently, Dr. Kirby worked with colleagues to create Promoting Sexual Health, a program that focuses on STD and pregnancy prevention among young adults and features the promotion of healthy sexual relationships. He also authored a theoretical guidebook, Reducing Adolescent Sexual Risk, on how to develop and adapt sexuality education curricula.

Dr. Kirby’s latest work focused on helping countries ravaged by HIV to strengthen their prevention education efforts through developing more impactful educational programs. Over the past year, Dr. Kirby delivered trainings for Ministries of Education, Ministries of Health and non-governmental organizations from over a dozen southern and eastern African countries on designing effective programs.

Dr. Kirby was a passionate professional who was incredibly generous with his time—answering inquiries from research colleagues, policy-makers, and students with thought and depth. He relished the opportunity to explore scientific issues, and continuously pondered and tackled complexities of the field. Doug was also a caring human being who took personal interest in those he met. He loved a good conversation and took the time to build relationships, show concern, and share his support no matter how overwhelmed or busy he was in his professional life.

One of Dr. Kirby’s goals in life was to help make the world a better place—he achieved that goal and more. Dr. Douglas Kirby will always hold a position of influence in the field of sexual and reproductive health and will continue to serve as an inspiration to others in the field for years to come. In his honor, ETR has established the Kirby Summer Internship, for graduate students in education, psychology, sociology, public health, epidemiology or a related field, with a focus or interest in sexual and reproductive health.


Doug was a pioneer in the field of sex education, both in the United States and internationally, identifying the key features of good quality, effective education and raising important questions about the limitations of other approaches.... He is sadly missed by all who worked with him or knew his work, but leaves the field of sex education a richer place as the result of his enthusiasm, dedication and scholarship.

Sex Education