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Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr. M.D, F.A.C.S., 89, was born in Tallahassee, Florida and grew up in Quincy, Florida. Dr. Leffall, the Charles R. Drew Professor of Surgery, Howard University College of Medicine, had a distinguished career. After his graduation summa cum laude in 1948 from Florida A&M College, he received an M.D. degree in 1952 from Howard University College of Medicine ranking first in his class. Completing his surgical training at Freedmen's Hospital (now Howard University Hospital) in 1957, he then took a surgical oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1957-59.
He married Ruth McWilliams, a graduate of Virginia Union, and their marriage produced a son, LaSalle D. Leffall III, a Harvard-educated lawyer and business executive. Dr. Leffall began his military career with the rank of Captain, M.C., serving as Chief of General Surgery, U.S. Army Hospital, Munich, Germany, 1960-61, and received an Honorable Discharge in December 1961 with the rank of Major. In 1962, Dr. Leffall joined Howard's faculty as an assistant professor and became Chairman of the Department of Surgery in 1970, a position he held for 25 years. He was a Visiting Professor and guest lecturer at more than 200 medical Institutions in the U.S. and abroad.
Author or co-author of three books and more than 150 articles and book chapters, he taught approximately 6,000 medical students, and helped train 300 surgery residents. He was the first African American President of the following organizations: American College of Surgeons, American Cancer Society, Society of Surgical Chairmen, Society of Surgical Oncology, and Washington Academy of Surgery. From 2002 to 2011 he served as Chairman of the President's Cancer Panel (initially appointed by President George W. Bush, and reappointed by President Barack Obama). His professional life has been devoted to the study of cancer, especially among African Americans. As President of the American Cancer Society, he launched a program on the challenge of cancer among Black Americans with special attention to the disproportionately increasing incidence and mortality of cancer in this population group, and with attention also to its implications for similar studies in other racial and ethnic minorities. It was the first program of this type in the nation addressing the problems of cancer health disparities; and today nearly all oncology groups have the disparities issue as one of their major priorities.
Dr. Leffall is survived by his wife, Ruth McWilliams Leffall; his son, LaSalle D. Leffall III; his sister, Dolores C. Leffall; other relatives, friends and colleagues.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the newly-created LaSalle D. Leffall Jr. Endowed scholarship for students with financial need at Howard University College of Medicine. Contributions may be sent to David Bennett, Howard University, 1851 9th St, NW, Third Floor, Washington, DC 20001.