In Memoriam: Leonard S. Zegans, MD

Leonard S. Zegans, MD

Leonard S. Zegans, MD

On Tuesday, July 7, 2015, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry Leonard S. Zegans, MD, passed away peacefully in his sleep in Lebanon, NH. Born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1934, he combined his extensive research and clinical expertise, passion for education and natural leadership ability to become an integral part of UCSF and a leader in his field of study.

Dr. Zegans studied at Princeton University before receiving his medical degree from New York University. During his time at NYU, he conducted research with Lewis Thomas, MD, on immunology and tissue-graft rejection, and studied with Howard Rusk, MD, at the Institute for Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine. He completed his residency in psychiatry at the University of Michigan, where he received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to study creative processes. He also researched psychological stress and temporal lobe epilepsy.

Following the completion of his public health service at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., Dr. Zegans received a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Special Postdoctorate Research Fellowship to work with Dr. John Bowlby and the Committee on Family and Community Psychology and Child Development Research Unit, as well as the London Zoological Society’s Ethological Research Section at the Tavistock Clinic in London. His research also included studies with Konrad Lorenz, MD, PhD, at the Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology in Germany.

Dr. Zegans began his academic career in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale Medical School, where he served as Graduate and Postgraduate Director of Education. In 1978, he joined the UCSF Department of Psychiatry as Professor and Director of Professional Education.

His clinical activities ranged from individual psychotherapy to consultation at San Quentin State Prison, and his research included studies of theories of aggression, chronic fatigue syndrome and the effects of psychological stress on the immune system. However, his primary professional interest and passion was in teaching and mentoring young physicians, and for this he is fondly remembered by many. In 2005, Dr. Zegans was honored with the department's highest teaching accolade, the George Sarlo Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

While at UCSF, he served as Chair of the Educational Policy Committee, was elected to the Committee on Committees, and was invited to serve as Chair of the UC system-wide Committee on Health Science Education. He also participated on numerous UCSF School of Medicine committees, including the Committee on Admissions, and a special committee on Preventive Medicine. From 2003 to 2005, he served as the Chair of the UCSF Academic Senate.

In 1995, Dr. Zegans was selected as the recipient of the J. Elliott Royer Award for Outstanding Achievement in Psychiatry in recognition of his research on stress and immunology, including his work as the Principal Investigator on a pioneering research program exploring the psychological needs of AIDS health care providers in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii. Recognized as an authority on stress and its effect on the immune system, he served on numerous national committees with the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and other organizations.

He edited and contributed as a writer on the book series Mind and Medicine, and also served as editor for The Psychiatric Clinics of North America: Psychiatric Manifestations of HIV Disease. Later in his career, he explored the connection between mental health and classical music as the editor of volumes on the works and lives of Mozart and Wagner.

In addition to his numerous educational, clinical and research contributions to UCSF and the field of psychiatry, Dr. Zegans was a beloved husband, devoted father of two, and the cherished Papa of five grandchildren. He will be remembered by his family, friends and colleagues for his humor, his enthusiastic pursuit of fun, his penchant for telling stories and his thoughtful advice.