A black and white portrait of Leffall LaSalle. He is wearing a suit and tie and glasses.

LaSalle D. Leffall Jr., a noted surgeon and oncologist, was the Charles R. Drew professor and former chairman of the Department of Surgery at Howard University, where he was on faculty beginning in 1962.

In 1979, as the first African American to serve as national president of the American Cancer Society, he focused attention on the increasing incidence and mortality of cancer among black Americans, creating an innovative program to address cancer disparities among ethnic populations. Dr. Leffall was also the first African American president of other national organizations, including the Society of Surgical Oncology, the Society of Surgical Chairmen, and the American College of Surgeons.

His positions of national prominence included membership on the National Cancer Advisory Board, the American Board of Surgery, and the President’s Cancer Panel. Among his numerous honors were the Presidential Award from the D.C. Chapter, American College of Surgeons; the James Ewing Medal of the Society of Surgical Oncology; the Charles R. Drew Medal, Drew Postgraduate Medical School; and four honorary degrees. Dr. Leffall was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine in 1973. A graduate of Florida A&M College, he received an M.D. degree from Howard University College of Medicine, ranking first in his class; trained in surgery at Freedmen’s Hospital (now Howard University Hospital); and completed a surgical oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. His writings include a book of memoires, No Boundaries: A Cancer Surgeon’s Odyssey, (Howard University Press, 2005), and Equanimity Under Duress: Calmness and Courage in the Battle Against Cancer (Howard University Press, 2014).

Additional Information

Oral history video by the National Visionary Leadership Project

“Dr. and Mrs. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr.: Paying it Forward,” ACS Bulletin

The Special Spirit of the Surgeon: Howard’s Dr. LaSalle Leffall in The Washington Post


Obituary from The New York Times

Obituary from The Washington Post

Birth - Death

1930 - 2019