Leevy, Carroll M. 1920–
Carroll M. Leevy 1920–
Physician, medical researcher
Carroll Moton Leevy has extensive accomplishments as a physician and researcher, and has made a tremendous impact in liver research and medical treatment of liver disease. His work pioneered treatment for alcoholics, a mostly ignored group of patients. It had been thought that there was nothing to be done for such liver disease patients, but Leevy felt that there was. His research led to understanding in the medical community of how alcoholism damages the liver. His work led to an easier way to detect liver disease and to biopsy methods and treatments. His liver clinic for alcoholics at the Jersey Medical Center was established in 1948 and was the first in the world. Leevy also taught at New Jersey Medical School, which later became affiliated with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey; he is credited with having trained over 3,700 physicians and graduate physicians in internal medicine, hepatology, nutrition, and gastroenterology. He experienced firsthand racial bigotry in the medical community, especially when it came to black patients and worked to resolve such conflict. Getting quality medical care for under-served populations has always been a special concern, and he contributed not only to medicine but to social issues in the medical community. He is recognized internationally as a liver expert.
Carroll Moton Leevy was born in Columbia, South Carolina, on October 13, 1920. His grandparents were freed slaves. His parents, Isaac and Mary Leevy, both earned college degrees and taught school. They later operated a department store, a funeral home, and an ambulance service. He had three siblings: Marion, Isaac, and Ruby. Leevy’s first experience with the medical community, and one he never forgot or failed to appreciate, came when he was four years old and had severe pneumonia. Later, an aunt who was suffering from stomach cancer came to live with the family to be close to medical care; she could not be helped in her rural home. This was not lost on the young Leevy.
He attended Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia, and during those years he worked in his father’s mortuary. This gave him firsthand experience and understanding of the lack of medical facilities and personnel that contributed to high death rates in African Americans. In those days of rampant racism, often only black doctors would treat black patients. Leevy’s sister died of tuberculosis when she was a college student. His experiences of death and the lack of quality medical care gave him his goal to become a physician. Throughout high school Leevy was involved in humanitarian projects, church youth group, and in the Boy Scouts; the debate team; was class president, led the science club; was editor of the school newspaper; and he and his chemistry teacher worked together to write a paper on isotopes. All these activities prepared him for what he would achieve later. He graduated from high school at the top of his class.
Leevy attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, as a premed student. To pay for college he received a scholarship and also worked at a clerical job. He was active in the Student Christian Association and was vice president of the Southeastern YMCA Field Council. In
At a Glance…
Born Carroll Moton Leevy on October 13, 1920, in Columbia, SC; son of Isaac and Mary leevy; married Ruth Secora Barboza (chemist), 1956; children: Maria, Carroll B. Leevy, MD. Education: Fisk University, AB, 1941; University of Michigan Medical School, MD, 1944. Military Service: US Army Specialized Training Program, 1942-44; US Navy, 1954-56. Religion: Congregational church.
Career: Jersey City Medical Center, intern and resident, 1944-48, chief resident physician, 1948, director, Clinical Investigation and Outpatient Department, 1948-59; Banting-Best Institute of Medical Research University of Toronto, fellowship, 1952; U.S. Naval Hospital, St. Albans, NY, lieutenant commander and assistant chief of medicine, 1954-56; New Jersey Medical School, associate professor of medicine, 1957; Thorndike Memorial Laboratory at Harvard Medical School, fellowship, 1958-59; University Hospital, chair, department of medicine and physician-in-chief, 1975-91; Sammy Davis, Jr. National Liver Institute, scientific director, 1984; New Jersey Medical School Liver Center, director, 1990.
Selected memberships: President, American Association for Study of Liver Diseases, 1970; president, International Assn for Study of the Liver 1986-1988; Intl Hepatology Informatics Group; Assn for Academic Minority Physicians; NAACP life membership; Natl Urban League.
Selected awards: Robert H. Williams Distinguished Chairman of Medicine Award, Assn of Professors of Medicine, 1991; Distinguished Service Award, Amer Assn for the Study of Liver Diseases, 1991; master, Amer Coll of Physicians; Natl Med Assn, Centennial Award, 1995; Distinguished Achievement Award, Assn for Acad Minority Physicians, 1995; Distinguished Achievement Award, Univ of M1 Med Center Alumni Society 1999.
Addresses: Home—35 Robert Drive, Short Hills, NJ 07078.
1940 he attended an integrated YMCA conference in Lisle, New York, where he observed people of different races and cultures working together for a common goal, and this impressed him. Leevy graduated from Fisk summa cum laude in 1941. He attended the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor. While at medical school, Leevy was nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt for membership on the National Advisory Committee of the National Youth Administration (NYA). Leevy’s work for the NYA was in keeping with his career and special interest path—inadequacies in health care, education, and segregation. This work took him to the White House where he presented his findings. While Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune were devoted to improving the situations he reported, World War II took precedence. A Kellogg Foundation fellowship and a job waiting tables helped finance his education, and in 1942, with the United States’ involvement in World War II and a shortage of physicians, Leevy entered the Army Specialized Training Program. He received a monthly stipend, which helped finance his medical education and gave him more time to concentrate on his studies.
In 1944 Leevy was awarded his medical degree and went to Jersey City Medical Center to complete his postdoctoral training. His internship involved typical physician training with rotations through emergency medicine, pediatrics, orthopedics, and internal medicine. He saw many cases of liver disease, and also found that there was little help to be given them, especially when there was not a way to diagnose their problems. Leevy contributed greatly to liver disease treatment with two developments: a simple method for diagnosing it, for which he holds a patent, and an almost painless method for obtaining liver biopsy samples.
Leevy encountered segregation at the medical center. The housing for black staff members was separate from that of white; Leevy’s quarters were in the basement of the Tuberculosis Hospital. He also observed racial bigotry toward black patients. During his residency there he taught interns while also researching heart and liver failure. He published his findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Leevy was appointed chief resident physician in 1948 and worked to establish the first clinic for alcoholic liver disease, which was located in Jersey Medical Center. He continued his studies, looking at the relationship of alcoholism and diabetes in liver disease. Not only did he research liver disease, but he ushered in new medical protocols in patient treatment, especially in the previously neglected alcohol-related liver disease patients.
When his residency was complete, Leevy became director of Clinical Investigation and Outpatient Department at the Jersey City Medical Center, serving in the capacity from 1948 to 1959. Because of his experiences with bigotry and racism, he added minority and female staff to better serve the public. He also worked to improve physician training with postgraduate courses and by establishing a research department. His former experiences had made a lasting impression on him and he was determined to change attitudes in medicine by establishing relationships between black colleges and associations and those predominately white. In 1952 Leevy obtained a fellowship to the Banting-Best Institute of Medical Research University of Toronto.
While Leevy was not required to complete his military commitment immediately because World War II had ended, in 1954 he was assigned for two years to the U.S. Naval Hospital in St. Albans, New York. His rank was lieutenant commander and he served as assistant chief of medicine. The number of cases of liver disease that he saw led him to establishing a liver research center at the hospital. He also wrote the first of his textbooks on liver disease, which was published in 1957. Leevy married chemist Ruth Secora Barboza in 1956. Together they had two children, Maria and Carroll Barboza Leevy. Carroll B. Leevy, M.D., followed in his father’s footsteps and is an associate professor and researcher of liver disease.
When his service at the Naval Hospital was completed, Leevy taught and researched at Harvard Medical School for a year. In 1957 he came back to Jersey City Medical Center, which had started a new medical school called Seton Hall College of Medicine and Dentistry, and which was located in the Jersey City Medical Center. Leevy joined the faculty as an associate professor of medicine. The hospital and the medical school went through a series of changes, and in 1970 was renamed the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey but later was again changed to the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). Leevy took a leadership role in the school, published six textbooks on liver disease and contributed to others, and published over 500 articles in medical journals and magazines. He served as chair of the department of medicine and physician-in-charge from 1975 to 1991. During this time he also became president of the American Association for Study of Liver Diseases in 1970 and president of the International Association for Study of the Liver. In 1990 he became scientific director of the New Jersey Medical School Liver Center, and also the scientific director of the Sammy Davis Jr. National Liver Center, which he helped establish in 1984. His son, Carroll B. Leevy, is also on staff at the Center.
In the 1990s it was estimated that four million Americans were infected with hepatitis C, which causes liver disease leading to liver failure and death. It is the main reason for liver transplant. A recognized expert in liver disease, Leevy presented testimony on hepatitis C at the 1998 subcommittee hearings of the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight on Hepatitis C. Leevy said that the death rate for the disease would triple over the next twenty years. “Nevertheless, the public remains largely unaware of the virus or the illness and death that it causes. I hope and expect that this hearing will bring focussed attention to the need for research, prevention strategies, and efforts to educate and inform the general public,” Leevy stated at the hearings, published on www.epidemic.org. He also told the subcommittee, “It is essential to target educational efforts to the medically under-served. Many minority or disadvantaged Americans have no access to routine lay educational health care programs.” In 2002 Leevy was asked to review the medical records of a prison inmate who had tested positive for hepatitis C. The virus was revealed to have infected 1100 inmates in New Jersey, with none being treated for the virus or liver disease. Hundreds of inmates had not been informed of the potentially fatal infection.
Carroll M. Leevy has lectured around the world in medical schools, and has appeared on television. He has served on a number of scientific boards and has been involved in many service organizations.
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Notable Black American Scientists, Gale Research, 1998.
Notable Twentieth-Century Scientists, Gale Research, 1995.
“Carroll Leevy,” Biography Resource Center, www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (September 11, 2003).
“Dr. Carroll M. Leevy,” Epidemic, www.epidemic.org/theForum/testimony/leevyTestimonyA.html (September 2, 2003).
“Finally, N.J. informs inmates of hepatitis C. After an order, 421 were told they had the virus, Philadelphia Inquirer,” The Jeff Dicks Medical Coalition, www.jeffdicks.org/reports.html (September 2, 2003).
“Forty-nine University Hospital Physicians in Twenty-eight Specialty Areas Named as TOP DOCTORS by Castle Connolly’s Top Doctors in the New York Metro Area,” The University Hospital, www.theuniversityhospital.com (September 3, 2003).
“N.J. inmate pleads for help as virus destroys his liver,” Philadelphia Inquirer, www.philly.com/mld/in-quirer/3706204.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp (September 2, 2003).
—Sandy J. Stiefer
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