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Obituary: Jerome Fred Levy, emeritus professor of surgery, 84

Levy helped pioneer reconstructive surgery for breast cancer patients

by Kristina SauerweinJune 17, 2019

Jerome Fred Levy, MD, a distinguished surgeon and emeritus professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, died June 12, 2019, of pancreatic cancer at home in St. Louis. He was 84.

A Washington University alumnus, Levy earned — in only three years and with honors — a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1954. He then earned a medical degree in 1958 and a master of liberal arts in 2010.

A native St. Louisan, Levy also began his professional career at Washington University. He started as a resident in surgery at what was then called Barnes Hospital and ascended to become an associate professor in clinical surgery before retiring from his surgical practice in 2002.

Early in his medical practice, Levy was drafted during the Vietnam War to serve as a captain in the U.S. Army, primarily with the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

He trained as a vascular surgeon and eventually focused his practice on treating patients with breast cancer, becoming one of the region’s first surgeons to perform immediate reconstruction following a mastectomy. Additionally, Levy wrote and published a book entitled “Your Breasts,” aimed at educating lay audiences in breast care.

“Jerry was loved by his patients and was an early pioneer of breast conservation and immediate reconstruction,” said Timothy J. Eberlein, MD, the Bixby Professor of Surgery, head of the Department of Surgery and director of the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the School of Medicine. “He was a renaissance man, having many outside interests where he also excelled. He and his wife Judy collected prints, and he was a superb nature photographer. He will be missed by all of his colleagues in the breast center.”

Levy’s passion for arts compelled him to earn a master of liberal arts degree from University College in Arts & Sciences, for which he was featured as a 2010 outstanding graduate. His thesis was on Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s statue of David.

He also traveled the globe, helped build his second home in Idaho and committed to his Jewish faith through his deep involvement with Congregation Temple Israel.

Levy is survived by his wife of 33 years, Judith Weiss Levy; and six children, Rebecca Levy Williams (Seth Williams, DVM), JoAnne Levy (Jim Thomeczek), the Hon. Ellen Levy (Carl Desenberg), Jerry Lundsgaard, Nancy Levy, and David Levy (Stephanie Kurtzman); 12 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren, and was preceded in death by his brother Monroe Levy (Constance).

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Congregation Temple Israel, P.O. Box 790379, St. Louis, Mo. 63179; Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park, St. Louis, Mo. 63110; Siteman Cancer Center, CB 1204, 7425 Forsyth Blvd., St. Louis, Mo. 63105; or another desired charity.

Kristina covers pediatrics, surgery, medical education and student life. In 2020, she received a gold Robert G. Fenley Writing Award for general staff writing from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and in 2019, she received the silver award. Kristina is an author and former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Los Angeles Times, where she was part of a team of journalists that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for breaking news. Additionally, she covered the 2014 Ferguson unrest for TIME magazine and, for eight years, wrote a popular parenting column for