Lewis Lefkowitz

LewContributed by Richard Davidson, October 2015.

Lewis Lefkowitz was born in Dallas, Texas in December, 1930. He was an early and vocal supporter of the work of the Coalition, and was beloved by the students of the Coalition and beyond.  He stayed close to the archive project even as his own memory began to falter.  Visiting him in his assisted living facility was always part of the agenda whenever former students gathered in Nashville.  He died in October 2021.

He attended the University of Texas Southwestern medical school, did an internship at Duke University, and finished his internal medicine residency at the VA Hospital in Dallas, serving as chief resident. He received training in epidemiology, public health, and infectious disease at the University of Illinois. He came to Vanderbilt University in 1965, and immediately began a community-based elective for students. Because of his interests, he was invited to a meeting with students in the office of Dr. Amos Christie, who had recently retired as chair of pediatrics. Dr. Lefkowitz, known to everyone as Dr. L, became one of the most important faculty supporters of the Student Health Coalition (SHC). In addition to visiting during health fairs, he took on the task of organizing the Urban Branch of the SHC, which worked in Nashville community centers based in underserved locations, primarily in East Nashville. Students who wanted to work on the Appalachian Project were able to attend his clinics and take elective coursework in these locations and receive training in physical assessment, which helped prepare them for summer projects. He served on the board of the Center for Health Services (CHS), the campus-based umbrella organization for student projects, for 18 years. In 2002, the Center created the Lewis B. Lefkowitz Internship to recognize and continue his commitment of extending medical education beyond the classroom and into the community.  On being honored by the Community Campus Partnerships for Health, he stated:

“There could be no better or more fascinating and productive laboratory for all kinds of scientific and humanitarian endeavors during students’ terms in medical school and residency than the community. This world, outside the walls of the medical school, is full of unexamined problems seeking solutions, infinitely varied and interesting. That is where most of the graduates will spend their post-academic lives and all their patients will experience virtually the entire course of their diseases. This is the reason it has increasingly attracted curriculum committees as they design and rationalize the changes they are proposing for medical education.”

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