June 26, 2003


Leland Rickman, M.D.

Leland Rickman, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the UCSD School of Medicine, died suddenly on June 24 while traveling and teaching medicine in Lesotho, Africa. Actual cause of death, apparently due to natural causes, is not known. He was 47.

Rickman contributed to the UCSD Medical School and the UCSD Medical Center in multiple areas. He was an active clinician and teacher in both Infectious Diseases and Internal Medicine.  In 1993 he was appointed Hospital Epidemiologist and Medical Director of the Epidemiology Unit and served as a key member of the Antibiotic Utilization Team. For the past three years, he served as Acting Associate Director of the Microbiology Laboratory and led clinical microbiology rounds. He played an active part in preparedness and training for bioterrorism in San Diego County. He was a member of the Group to Eradicate Resistant Micro-organisms (GERM) Commission of the San Diego County Medical Society

"Dr. Rickman was a consummate teacher and an outstanding role model," said Edward W. Holmes, Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences at UCSD. "He will be remembered for his tireless energy and commitment to sharing knowledge and teaching new skills in clinical medicine." 

Colleagues remember Rickman as a superb teacher of clinical medicine who loved nothing more than to introduce students to common and obscure syndromes.

Rickman was born in 1956 in Cleveland, Ohio.  He earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1976.  He completed his Medical Degree at the University of Michigan in 1980, an Internal Medicine Internship and Residency at the University of California San Diego in 1980-83, and an Infectious Diseases Fellowship at Naval Hospital San Diego in 1983-85.  After holding several positions with the Navy, he joined the UCSD Faculty in 1990.  Rickman was Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases and active in several professional associations.

"His teaching awards from the housestaff, chief residents and students were too numerous to count, prompting me to consider creating a new award, 'teacher of excellence,' to be awarded to Lee in perpetuity, allowing others to receive the awards he so richly deserved year after year," said Kenneth Kaushansky, M.D., Chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSD. "Lee was away from San Diego upon his untimely death, on a trip to bring his clinical experience to African physicians and patients. In this regard, his loss was not only to those of us at UCSD but to the world."

In fact, Dr. Rickman earned more teaching awards than any other faculty member in the Department of Medicine.  His awards included the UCSD Department of Medicine's Graduating Housestaff Teaching Award (each year from 1993 through 2000) and the Department of Medicine's Chief Medical Residents Teaching Award (from 1992 through 1996 and again in 2002). Each year, he sponsored Independent Study Projects by multiple medical students, which frequently generated publications. 

"He was a wonderful colleague who was the first to volunteer to supervise and teach the residents and students during the busiest times of the year or help other professors on short notice," said J. Allen McCutchan, Professor of Medicine at UCSD. "Lee's colleagues, students, friends and family will remember him for his ready smile, quick wit, and genuineness.  He was a wonderful physician, mentor, friend, colleague, and family member.  He will be deeply missed by all who knew him."

Rickman is survived by his wife Susan Kanfer, father Leonard Rickman, sister Janine Rickman Novatt, and a niece and nephew, Hilary and Cole. Details of the memorial services are still pending.

In response to requests, Dr. Lee Rickman's wife Susan asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Hadassah Medical Organization, which comprises the Hadassah University Hospitals at Ein Kerem and Mt. Scopus in Israel, with close to one thousand beds between them, and associated out-patient and day-care services at the forefront of modern medical practice. Over 600,000 patients from all over Israel and beyond its borders are treated annually, without distinction as to race, religion or nationality.

She describes Hadassah as "the medical complex in Israel that serves the needs of all members of a strife torn community, Arab and Jew, terrorist and victim.  It is a far reaching and impressive organization and one that both Lee and I have been involved with.  We both have always believed that the road to peace in this world is through healing and providing necessary services to those in need.  That is why Lee went to Lesotho.   Hadassah Hospital serves the needs of everyone who comes to its door steps, no matter what their background or color is, and serves a geographic area beyond the limits of the Middle East."

Checks should be made out to Hadassah, in memory of Lee Rickman, and mailed to the local Hadassah office:  Hadassah, San Diego Area Resource Center, 5755 Oberlin Drive, San Diego, CA 92121. 

# # #

News Media Contact:
Leslie Franz