Tulane neurology chair Leon A. Weisberg, MD, an expert on stroke and cerebrovascular disease, died unexpectedly on Dec. 13, 2006, in New Orleans, at the age of 65.
Dr. Weisberg last spoke to Neurology Today in September 2006 about the challenges of resuming the medical school at Tulane following Hurricane Katrina. As director of the Tulane neurology residency-training program, Dr. Weisberg assisted with the reorganization of the downtown medical care system.
When the Tulane School of Medicine relocated to Baylor University for the 2005–2006 academic year, Dr. Weisberg did the same. There, he “made shepherding the medical students and residents through the transition his top priority,” said Andrew M. Naidech, MD, assistant professor of neurology and critical care co-director of Neurosciences ICU at Northwestern University and Feinberg School of Medicine Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Dr. Naidech studied under Dr. Weisberg in Tulane's combined internal medicine and neurology residency program.
Dr. Naidech, who collaborated on several studies with Dr. Weisberg, told Neurology Today: “I owe Leon Weisberg my career and a pivotal time in my life. My memories of his mentorship, friendship, and guidance are irreversibly linked with pre-Katrina New Orleans. They sound like jazz, smell of cayenne pepper, and envelope you like thick moist air. I miss them every day.”
Dr. Weisberg's mentorship, support, and willingness to work in Houston during the year had a tremendous impact on the medical students, said Anne L. Foundas, MD, professor of neurology and director of the neurology residency training program at Tulane University Health Sciences Center. Dr. Weisberg returned to New Orleans after the first year and was optimistically putting the foundations in place for the re-expansion of the program.
Dr. Foundas, who served as director of the neurology residency-training program for 11 years under Dr. Weisberg, remembered her colleague as an “exceptional person and an outstanding teacher, one who was unusually kind and direct in his management style.” She added: “I will always be indebted to Leon for his kindness and his strength. He was a mentor and a friend.”
Dr. Weisberg first came to Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He was professor and director of neurology, as well as vice-chairman of the combined department of psychiatry and neurology there for nearly twenty years. He also served as the head of neuroscience service, combining neurology and neurosurgery, at Charity Hospital.
Dr. Weisberg specialized in stroke, cerebrovascular disease, and headache, along with specialized interests in the neurological complications of pregnancy and of HIV. “He had the audacity to establish the state's first CT scanner in the department of neurology, before neuroimaging came firmly under radiology,” recalled Dr. Naidech.
Dr. Weisberg authored Cerebral Computed Tomography: a Text Atlas, the first book on CT of the human brain, which is now in its third edition. He wrote or coauthored more than 150 articles and seven other books, including Clinical Neurology (3rd edition), Decision Making in Adult Neurology (2nd edition), and Neurology for the Psychiatry Specialty Board Review. He also served on the Southern Medical Journal editorial board.
Dr. Weisberg won numerous teaching awards, and received the Medical Student Award for Teaching Excellence in Neurology an unprecedented 26 times. He also received the Tulane University Health Sciences Center Teaching Scholar Award in 2003 and was acknowledged by the AAN National Honor Role of Neurologic Teachers in 2005.
“Some of the fondest memories we have of Leon are of him shuffling down the hall and stopping in the offices of his faculty to chat about his true loves: his wife Laurie and four children — Stuart, Alec, Michael, and Melissa; the New York Yankees; and clinical neurology.”
“Leon left an indelible mark on our department, our medical school, and the lives of all who were fortunate to have known him. He will be sorely missed.”
The family has asked that donations in his name be sent to the Louisiana Stroke Association or the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at www.la-spca.org/forms/donations.htm.