In memoriam: Dr. Robert Leon, psychiatry’s founding chairman

Robert L. Leon, M.D.
Robert L. Leon, M.D.

Robert Leonard Leon, M.D., professor emeritus and founding chairman of the Department of Psychiatry, died Jan. 27. He was 92.

Dr. Leon was born in Colorado in 1925. The son of immigrants from England and Romania, he excelled in his studies. He was accepted into medical school at the University of Colorado at Boulder after only two years as an undergraduate at the school, and received his medical degree in 1948. He went on to complete his residency in psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry, also at the University of Colorado.

Dr. Leon was on the faculty at the department of psychiatry at UT Southwestern in Dallas for 10 years before being named the founding chairman of the psychiatry department in 1967. He served as chair for 28 years.

“He had a strong interest in community psychiatry, particularly  issues affecting the mental health of Mexican Americans in the border region, said Steven R. Pliszka, M.D., chair of the Department of Psychiatry. “He also published widely on medical education.”

Moreover, Dr. Pliszka added, “All who knew him were struck by his kindness and warmth. Many of the medical students and residents who trained under his leadership remain on the faculty today. The Department of Psychiatry was indeed fortunate to have such strong, steady leadership in its early days. “

After his retirement as chair in 1995, Dr. Leon worked with the World Health Organization in Geneva and continued to participate in medical education.

He is survived by his wife Lee, daughters Stacy and Alexis, sons Mark and Jeffrey, daughters-in-law Sara and Diane, sons-in-law Michael and Victor, brother-in-law Joseph, grandchildren Louis, Jacob, Catherine, John, Samuel, William, Avin, Miral, Giando, Verdi, and Adia, and two great-grand children.

His daughter, Stacy Leon, M.D., is a graduate of the UT Health Science Center’s psychiatry residency and currently practices in Austin.

View a video history interview with Dr. Robert L. Leon.

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