Harold J. Levy was recently honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in the community and at the school where he taught for more than 50 years.
Harold J. Levy, MD, ’46, recalls the old UB medical school on High Street that he attended. The facilities were antiquated, he says, but the faculty was very dedicated and provided an excellent education for the practice of medicine.
“The entrance ramp went through the building and out the back. It was built in the days when the doctors-professors had their carriages driven into the building so they didn’t have to walk through inclement weather.”
Minus such accommodations, Levy welcomes the school’s return to the site. “I think it’s a much more functional arrangement. The proximity to Buffalo General, Gates Vascular Institute, Children’s Hospital and Roswell Park—and the inclusion of research facilities—creates a type of campus that is much more efficient.”
The Levy name has been associated with the medical school for a century. His father, Sidney, received his medical degree in 1915 and became one of the first radiologists to practice in Buffalo. At age 21, Harold became the youngest UB medical school graduate and was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. His son, Sanford, continued the family tradition by earning his medical degree in 1986 and beginning his practice as an internist with a special interest in holistic medicine.
After an internship, residency and a teaching position at the school, Levy served as chief of psychiatry in the army in Korea and Hawaii from 1948-50. He then returned to Buffalo where he resumed his faculty position and pursued a research fellowship in the budding field of psychosomatic medicine—the combined study of psychiatry and internal medicine—at what was then Meyer Memorial Hospital (now Erie County Medical Center).
Because the psychosomatic approach lacked recognition at the time, Levy chose psychiatry and began his practice. At age 88, he is still practicing part-time in his longstanding office in Buffalo’s Central Park area.
An early advocate of the collaborative approach of psychiatry, he recalls establishing the first private practice in the community that incorporated psychologists and psychiatric social workers.
“Psychotherapy is the art of relating to patients and helping them to gain an understanding of themselves, something that is very hard to acquire,” says Levy. He worries that the field has become too reliant on prescribing medications. “I still believe we need to talk to our patients,” he notes.
Last year at the school’s Spring Clinical Day, Levy was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in the community and at the school where he taught for more than 50 years.
“I chose the profession because I wanted to help others, which is why I’m still practicing after 65 years,” he says.