LaSalle D. Leffall Jr.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
LaSalle D. Leffall Jr.
La Salle D. Leffall, 1984, at a symposium for health and medical communications.jpg
Leffall in 1984
LaSalle Doheny Leffall Jr.

(1930-05-22)May 22, 1930
DiedMay 25, 2019(2019-05-25) (aged 89)
EducationHoward University College of Medicine (M.D.)
Medical career
FieldSurgical oncology
InstitutionsHoward University College of Medicine

LaSalle Doheny Leffall Jr. (May 22, 1930 – May 25, 2019) was an American surgeon, oncologist, and medical educator. Leffall was very committed to those he served and his profession. He served as the Charles R. Drew Professor of Surgery at Howard University College of Medicine and in leadership positions for several healthcare organizations, including stints as president of the American Cancer Society and the American College of Surgeons.

Early life[edit]

Leffall was born on May 22, 1930, in Tallahassee, Florida. His father had taught agriculture at Florida A&M College and had been a high school principal in Quincy, Florida, where Leffall grew up. The high school his father taught at was racially segregated. He was from Texas and had 10 other siblings in his family. As a child, he was able to treat a bird that was wounded which sparked his interest for medicine.[1] Leffall was 15 when he graduated from high school, and he finished an undergraduate Biology degree at Florida A&M in three years at 18. With the desire he had in writing he also got an English degree.[2] He applied to Meharry Medical College and to the Howard University College of Medicine. Due to a low score on the Medical College Admission Test he was considered to be rejected from Howard.[2] When Leffall and a classmate had not heard back from either school, Florida A&M's president, William Gray, spoke to the president at Howard and secured admission for the two students.[3] Leffall stated in an interview,"If it had not been for Dr Gray's taking that stance, there is no telling what would have happened."[2]

Leffall earned a medical degree in 1952, attending Howard at a time when Charles Drew was a faculty member there.[3] In the 1950s, he spent several years in specialty training, having been mentored by Jack E. White, the first black physician to pursue training in surgical oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.[4] While at Homer G. Phillips Hospital, he did an internship.[1] After completing training at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Leffall spent a year in Munich, Germany with the United States Army.[5] His role as a surgeon in Germany consisted of serving as Chief in the U.S. Army Hospital.[2]


In 1962, Leffall joined the Howard faculty. By 1970, he was a full professor and chairman of Howard's surgery department. He earned his named professorship in 1992, as the first Charles R. Drew faculty who performed surgery.[2] Leffall performed surgery until the mid-2000s, completing 60 years in total. Though he stopped actively practicing medicine in 2013, he maintained his teaching and administrative involvement at the medical school.[4] In May 2015, Howard held a special grand rounds session to honor Leffall's service to the school.[6]

Leffall was the first African American president of both the American Cancer Society (1978) and the American College of Surgeons (1995).[4] There was inequality between white and black Americans when it came to receiving healthcare. His leadership skills helped bring attention to the treatment and mortality in Black cancer patients. Specially, forming a program focusing on the issue of cancer for Black Americans.[2] He served as chairman of the board of directors for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation from 2002 to 2007 and for a few months in 2011 and 2012, when he resigned because of increasing responsibilities as provost at Howard.[7] He was on the board of directors of Mutual of America.[8] The Society of Surgical Oncology also awarded Leffall as the first African American president.[2] Throughout his career, he was able to speak to over 200 medical colleges in and out of America. On top of that, he contributed to over 100 books and articles both as the original author and joint author.[1]

He received honorary degrees from Georgetown University, Amherst College and several other colleges.[9] He received a Candace Award for Science from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 1983.[10] The 43rd President gave him a position in the President's Cancer Panel as a Chair holder.[2] Howard University recognized Leffall for the impactful work he left all throughout his time in the medical field, including the leadership he presented in the medical societies.[11]

Personal life and death[edit]

Leffall met his wife, the former Ruth McWilliams, when he was a senior at Howard.[5] Leffall and his wife had one son, LaSalle Leffall III, a Harvard-educated businessman. Leffall was close friends with jazz musician Cannonball Adderley.[9]

Leffall died of cancer on the evening of May 25, 2019 in Washington, D.C. He is survived by wife Ruth, son Lasalle D. Leffall, III and sister Dolores Leffall.[2]


  1. ^ a b c "Dr. and Mrs. LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr.: Paying it forward". The Bulletin. 2016-03-01. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Green, Andrew (2019-07-13). "LaSalle D Leffall Jr". The Lancet. 394 (10193): 114. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(19)31557-0. ISSN 0140-6736.
  3. ^ a b "Digital Manuscripts Program Oral History Project: Interview with Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr" (PDF). National Library of Medicine. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Cavallo, Jo (September 15, 2013). "Prominent surgeon and teacher LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr, MD, promotes hard work and education to overcome boundaries". The ASCO Post. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Trescott, Jacqueline (February 17, 1979). "The special spirit of the surgeon: Howard's Dr. LaSalle Leffall". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
  6. ^ Harris, Hamil (May 19, 2015). "Howard's legendary LaSalle Leffall still going strong at 85". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  7. ^ Sun, Lena; Kliff, Sarah (March 22, 2012). "Komen board chairman steps down, citing Howard University duties". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  8. ^ "Mutual of America Board of Directors". Mutual of America. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
  9. ^ a b "LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., M.D., F.A.C.S." Howard University. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  10. ^ "CANDACE AWARD RECIPIENTS 1982–1990, Page 2". National Coalition of 100 Black Women. Archived from the original on March 14, 2003.
  11. ^ Cornwell, Edward E. (2018). "LaSalle D. Leffall Jr., M.D. The Man and the Mission". American Journal of Surgery. 215 (6): 1051–1054. doi:10.1016/j.amjsurg.2017.12.004. ISSN 1879-1883. PMID 29506755.