Author + information
- aHaverford, Pennsylvania
- bLankenau Hospital and Institute for Medical Research, Main Line Health Heart Center, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania
- ↵∗Address for correspondence:
Dr. Peter R. Kowey, Lankenau Hospital and Institute for Medical Research, Main Line Health Heart Center, 556 Lankenau MOB East, 100 Lancaster Avenue, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania 19096-3425.
“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; this is to have succeeded.”
—Bessie Stanley (1)
Leonard S. Dreifus, MD, died at home in Heathrow, Florida, on March 30, 2017, at age 92 years with his devoted wife of 59 years, Seline, at his side, and surrounded by family. Leonard loved and derived the most energy, passion, purpose, pleasure, and satisfaction from being with his caring wife Seline; their 3 attentive sons Henry, David, and Lenny, along with their wives; his 7 grandchildren; and his 1 great-grandchild. Leonard was a mentor, colleague, friend, and professional parent to many. We will miss Leonard's warm smile, ready laugh, cheerful greeting, good nature, great sense of humor, common sense, uncommon intelligence, enlightening insights, tremendous enthusiasm and encouragement, honesty, integrity, sincerity, huge heart, kind soul, and gentle spirit. Leonard was an excellent observer and listener, wise and practical, worth listening to with full attention. He learned from both his frequent successes and infrequent missteps, could laugh at himself, and heartily enjoyed the successes of others. He had at least 1 positive comment he would express about everyone.
Leonard was a proud graduate of the 177th class of the all-academic public Central High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and decades later was selected for Central's Hall of Fame. He served honorably in the Army and Army Air Corps during World War II before matriculating at the University of Pennsylvania, and earned his MD at Hahnemann Medical College (now Drexel University). Leonard had further medical and cardiology training at Philadelphia General Hospital and Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. Professionally, he held several positions in academic cardiology before becoming the Chief of Cardiology at Lankenau Hospital in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Leonard was a Professor of Medicine and a Professor of Physiology at several institutions, including Thomas Jefferson University, Hahnemann Medical College, and later Drexel University in Philadelphia, before he and Seline relocated to Central Florida.
Leonard made many seminal advances in cardiology throughout his prolific 60-year career. He learned from every patient and every experiment, basic science or clinical trial, and applied it in a new, practical way. He was a teacher, educator, and disciplined medical scientist. He shared his journey in informative and useful publications, of which he had >250, plus chapters and medical texts. He gave hundreds of professional presentations throughout the United States and internationally. Leonard selflessly donated considerable time and effort to many professional organizations and editorial boards, as well as served as a peer reviewer on countless grant requests, manuscripts, and applications.
Leonard’s sharp eye, keen intellect, brilliant mind, and resourceful tenacity were evident throughout his life. Early in his career, he was the first to publish a paper with an illustrative electrocardiographic (ECG) recording from a patient with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome developing a distinctive pattern of rapid ventricular complexes with varying morphology and rate; he observed the pattern on an ECG rhythm strip he pulled from the trash the morning after cardioversion. The staff unknowingly and mistakenly diagnosed the rhythm as polymorphic ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. Leonard recognized and diagnosed the tracings as initial atrial fibrillation with an irregular, rapid ventricular rate and variably wide QRS complexes. Notably, much later in Leonard's career, while still practicing cardiology and teaching as a volunteer at a homeless clinic, one of the last patients referred to him before he retired at age 90 years was a case of unrecognized symptomatic Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, in which he delightedly made the diagnosis from the ECG tracings.
Leonard was an “expert's expert” in ECGs, arrhythmias, pacemakers, and electrophysiology as a clinician, scientist, and educator. He was always curious and had a new idea, inquiry, or research proposal nearly daily. He was fascinated by the function of the sino-atrial and atrioventricular nodes; developing ablation for abolishing arrhythmias; antiarrhythmic surgery; defibrillation devices; physiological dual-chamber, compact, and durable pacemakers; determining the hemodynamic consequences of arrhythmias and the mechanisms of their electro-myocardial dysfunction; and computer-automated ECG processing.
Leonard was a highly regarded and generous Chief of Cardiology at Lankenau Hospital. He was also a visionary who put Lankenau on the map as a leading cardiovascular center for clinical care, training, research, and education. The junior faculty and well-chosen clinical fellows were his disciples. Leonard led by example.
Leonard invited his dearest, esteemed multinational colleagues, such as Yoshio Watanabe, MD, in Japan and Elieser Kaplinsky, MD, in Israel, and others to return to Lankenau and to send their most promising trainees or junior faculty from around the world to serve as research fellows at Lankenau. Each completed meaningful projects that resulted in publications and made it possible for them to take on even more exceptional leadership roles globally. The cardiology research program thrived under his leadership. Leonard was particularly proud of their future successes and contributions as medical scientists, academic clinicians, and mentors themselves.
Thanks to Leonard, the Lankenau Medical Research Center was also a welcome refuge for many students and trainees who had lost their way for various reasons, whether personal or professional. This nurturing opportunity contributed to their restoration and recovery, initially as laboratory technicians, and ultimately as colleagues.
Finally, first in his heart professionally, Leonard loved everything about the American College of Cardiology (ACC) before, during, and after his presidency. Within the College, he launched many meaningful initiatives and fostered the development of innumerable subsequent ACC leaders. In 1979, Leonard and Seline donated the iconic inspirational sculpture by Harold Kimmelman, “Man Helping Man,” to the ACC, which the ACC still proudly displays at the headquarters and on many ACC materials (Figure 1). This sculpture captures the embodiment of Leonard’s approach to cardiology and symbolizes the mission of the ACC. Leonard was a staunch supporter of new ACC activities and led by example in starting and participating in the initial and subsequent extramural and Learning Center programs and publications, as well as advocacy for evidence-based guidelines and consensus Bethesda Conferences that established the ACC as a relevant professional organization for the advancement of cardiology.
Leonard celebrated living and life, personally and professionally. On behalf of many grateful colleagues, we will miss you.
- 2017 American College of Cardiology Foundation
- ↵Stanley B. Success. Available at: http://www.wisdomquotes.com/quote/not-emerson.html. Accessed April 12, 2017.