Dr. Leon Morgenstern, Cedars-Sinai’s inaugural director of surgery and founder of its Center for Healthcare Ethics, died on Dec. 23. He was 93.
Although born in Pittsburgh, Penn., in 1919, Morgenstern considered himself a New Yorker and earned his medical degree from New York University College of Medicine.
Following two years with the U.S. Army Medical Corps, Morgenstern served his internship, fellowship and surgical residency at Queens General Hospital.
Morgenstern came to Los Angeles in 1953, where he worked as a general surgeon and attending physician at Cedars of Lebanon and Mount Sinai. Morgenstern went on to become director of surgery at Cedars of Lebanon, a post he held until 1988, 18 years after Cedars and Mount Sinai merged to become Cedars-Sinai.
In 1995, Morgenstern established Cedars-Sinai’s Center for Healthcare Ethics, which helps patients, caregivers, policymakers and others with the ethics of how best to care for and treat patients as well as how to raise professionals’ awareness of ethics in their practices. He also held several academic appointments during his career, including clinical professor of surgery at UCLA School of Medicine and adjunct professor of ethics at the University of Judaism (now American Jewish University).
“Dr. Morgenstern was not only a brilliant surgeon, he also was our wise counselor, our impeccable visionary and professional, and above all a remarkable, values-driven compassionate physician,” said Dr. Shlomo Melmed, senior vice president for academic affairs at Cedars-Sinai. “His ethical standards will remain indelibly etched on our culture for decades to come.”
Morgenstern is survived by his wife, Laurie Mattlin; sons, David Ethan and Seth August; and five grandchildren.
Cedars-Sinai is planning a memorial in Morgenstern’s honor.