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January 2017
In Memoriam: Leon G. Smith, MD, FIDSA

Leon G. Smith, MD, FIDSA (1929-2016)

Leon Smith, MD, FIDSA, chairman of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey, passed away on December 19, 2016 at age 87.

During his career, Dr. Smith received multiple awards, including IDSA's Walter E. Stamm Mentor Award, the Mastership Award from the American College of Physicians, the Knight of Saint Gregory honor, and Castle Connolly's Top Doctors Award for more than 15 years.

Dr. Smith earned his medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine and completed his residency and fellowship in infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health and Yale-Grace New Haven Hospital. He went on to St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark and became one of the first infectious diseases specialists in New Jersey, consulting at hospitals across the state. As chairman of medicine and chief of infectious diseases, he founded St. Michael's medical education program. During his time at St. Michael's, Dr. Smith trained hundreds of doctors in internal medicine and dozens more in infectious disease. Those who were fortunate enough to have trained under him were forever changed by the inspiration he provided.

"He was a true mentor to many of us, a real role model, someone who spent his entire life giving to those in need locally, regionally, nationally and internationally," said IDSA Past President Thomas Slama, MD, FIDSA. "He was a persistent and inspirational leader to hundreds if not thousands of physicians and someone whose smile could melt an iceberg. He treated me as if I were one of his sons and if I am fortunate, some of his valued traits will have been passed on to me."

During the early stages of the AIDS epidemic, Dr. Smith was aware of the lack of understanding that led to fear and discrimination and reluctance on the part of hospitals to admit and care for patients with HIV. Realizing that the epidemic would reach Newark, Dr. Smith worked with Archbishop Theodore Edgar McCarrick to ensure that St. Michael's Medical Center would open its doors to these patients. The facility was the first in New Jersey to establish an AIDS inpatient unit and clinic.

Dr. Smith is survived by his five children, Leon, Michele Blackwood, Stephan, Ann Denehy, and Marshall, his sister, Marion Kuhlemann, and his 15 grandchildren. Four of his children have followed in his footsteps and gone on to become doctors, and two of his grandchildren attend medical school (thus far).

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