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Lawrence S. Lilienfield

Lawrence S. Lilienfield, M.D., Ph.D., of Washington, D.C., died on Tuesday at Georgetown University Hospital. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the late 1990s. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Eleanor Lilienfield.

Dr. Lilienfield was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. He graduated from James Madison High School at age 15 and entered Brooklyn College, transferring to the University of Maryland in 1943. In 1944, at age 17, he joined the Navy and was sent to Villanova College where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in 1945. Under Navy auspices, he entered Georgetown University School of Medicine. After the end of World War II, Dr. Lilienfield was released from the Navy and joined the Army.

Upon graduation from Georgetown in 1949, Dr. Lilienfield undertook an internship in medicine at Georgetown University Hospital. In the same year, he married Eleanor Russ, a union later blessed with three daughters, Jan, Adele and Lisa. Soon after he began medical residency in 1950, the Korean War erupted and Dr. Lilienfield joined the Air Force, becoming base surgeon and squadron commander at a base in Fairford, England. Upon discharge in 1952, he returned to Georgetown and completed his residency in 1953. He became an instructor in medicine in 1955, and a year later in physiology as well. In 1958, Dr. Lilienfield became a full-time member of the department of physiology. Dr. Lilienfield later assumed the chairmanship of the department of physiology and biophysics, which he held from 1963 until 1992.

Besides promoting physiology, Dr. Lilienfield participated in a number of humanitarian efforts. During the war in Vietnam, Dr. Lilienfield urged the American Medical Association to address the health plight of South Vietnamese citizens. As a result, the AMA contracted with the Agency for International Development and sent Dr. Lilienfield and others to South Vietnam to improve and teach at the nation's only medical school, the University of Saigon School of Medicine. After he returned, he created educational opportunities within his department for visiting Vietnamese scientists. Additionally, Dr. Lilienfield spent time in Israel developing the medical school program at the University of Tel Aviv. Later, when the Cambodian civil war deposited thousands of refugees in Thailand, Dr. Lilienfield headed Georgetown-based teams of physicians, nurses and medical students who visited these camps to establish health standards for the refugees. This experience eventually became an elective senior assignment in refugee medicine, which Dr. Lilienfield directed for more than a decade. Among other assignments, Dr. Lilienfield worked with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees, authoring a report in 1986 on the health of Palestinian refugees.

Dr. Lilienfield had a long-held interest in the human dimensions of medical practice, and throughout his career sought to enhance the communicative skills of newly minted physicians. In furtherance of his ideas, he developed a program at the medical school to improve student-faculty relations and facilitate a better learning environment. Dr. Lilienfield also created a special master's program in physiology at Georgetown University to allow college graduates to strengthen their credentials for application to medical school; the program is currently in its 35th year. Later in his career, Dr. Lilienfield developed one of the earliest computer-assisted medical education programs available, an electronic textbook in human physiology.

Also surviving are three daughters, Jan Weiss and husband, Barry, Scranton; Adele Geraghty and husband, Michael, and Lisa Lilienfield and husband, William Brindley; a brother, Gerald Lilienfield; six grandchildren, Gregg Weiss, Melinda Levin and husband, Michael, Darren Weiss and wife, Nina, Andrea Weiss, and Shaun and Jessica Robinson; and a great-grandson, Eli David Levin.

A funeral service will be held today at 11:30 a.m. at Danzansky-Goldberg Memorial Chapels Inc, 1170 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md., 301-340-1400. Interment to follow at King David Memorial Gardens, Falls Church, Va. The family will receive friends at the Lilienfield residence in Washington, D.C., Saturday evening through Sunday evening. Receiving will continue Monday through Wednesday evening at the Weiss residence in Pennsylvania. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Georgetown University Medical Center or the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, www.pdf.org.
Published in Scranton Times on Sept. 24, 2010
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