HeroVet: LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., M.D, Army Vet and Leading Cancer Surgeon

Dr. LeSalle Leffall

One of the Army’s finest leads the charge in the battle against one of our nation’s biggest threats: Cancer. Surgeon, oncologist, medical educator and leader of numerous professional and civic organizations, Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr. is an influential voice in the fight against cancer.

Since May 2002, Dr. Leffall has chaired President Bush’s Cancer Panel. He also chairs The Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and serves as the Charles R. Drew Professor of Surgery at the Howard University College of Medicine, his alma mater. Dr. Leffall was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, in July 2004.

In his autobiography, No Boundaries: A Cancer Surgeon’s Odyssey, Dr. Leffall writes:

"With all the progress we have made in cancer treatment and research during my long career, I still remind myself every single day that my primary responsibility is to help every patient I see, to tell her or him the truth—with sensitivity and compassion—and to always hold out great hope for success...when you give people hope...you grant them one of the greatest of all human joys: the joy of anticipation."

As chair of the President’s three-person Cancer Panel, he works closely with famed cyclist Lance Armstrong:

"Dr. Leffall is a true champion in the fight against cancer. His admirable service to people with cancer exemplifies the power of compassion and wisdom -- and the necessity of delivering good medicine with a healthy dose of hope," Armstrong said.

At the height of the Cold War in Europe, Dr. Leffall began his military career as a Captain, M.C., serving as Chief of General Surgery, U.S. Army Hospital in Munich, Germany, 1960-61, His membership on Howard’s faculty began in 1962 as assistant professor and continued through appointments as acting dean and professor. He became chairman of the department of surgery in 1970, a position he held for 25 years. As the Charles R. Drew Professor, he occupies the first endowed Chair in the Department of Surgery at Howard University.

In recognition of Black History Month, we also recognize Dr. Leffall’s accomplishment as the first African-American president of the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Leffall’s professional life has been devoted to the study of cancer, especially as it relates to African Americans. In 1979, as national president of the American Cancer Society, he launched a program on the challenge of cancer in black Americans, paying special attention to the increasing incidence and mortality in this population group. His major areas of interest are soft part sarcomas and cancers of the breast, colorectum and head and neck.

Dr. Leffall graduated summa cum laude from Florida A&M University with a B.S. degree in 1948. Four years later, he received his M.D. from Howard University College of Medicine, ranking first in his class. He continued his medical training as an intern at Homer G. Phillips Hospital, St. Louis; assistant resident and chief resident in surgery at Freedmen’s Hospital, Washington, D.C.; assistant resident in surgery at the D.C. General Hospital, Washington, D.C.; chief resident in surgery at Freedmen’s Hospital; and senior fellow in cancer surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York.

A diplomate of the American Board of Surgery and fellow of the American College of Surgeons and American College of Gastroenterology (named an Honorary Lifetime member in 1998), Dr. Leffall has been a visiting professor and guest lecturer at more than 200 medical institutions in the U.S. and around the world. He has authored or coauthored more than 130 articles and chapters.

The LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr. Surgical Society was formed in 1995, the Leffall Chair in Surgery was established in 1996 and the Metropolitan Washington Chapter of the American College of Surgeons established the LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr. Prize in 1996. In 1998, he became Chairman of the Steering Committee of the National Dialogue on Cancer, a committee co-chaired by former President and Mrs. George H.W. Bush, just prior to President George W. Bush naming him Chair of the President’s Cancer Panel.

Image Credit: http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/president-cancer-panel-targets-chemicals-food-possible-risk-factor/aIoFVbpdz7QwFcEVHv0oVP/

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