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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

NIH Alumnus Laster Mourned

Dr. Laster

Dr. Leonard Laster

Dr. Leonard Laster, a former NIH scientist who went on to become vice president and dean of the State University of New York, Brooklyn, Downstate Medical Center, president of Oregon Health Sciences University and chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, Worcester, died recently at age 92.

He was born in the Bronx and graduated from Harvard College, 2 years after entering at age 15. He graduated from Harvard Medical school in 1950.

Laster served at NIH from 1954 to 1973. During that time, he was chief of the section on gastroenterology at the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases, where he made significant contributions to the field of gastrointestinal and metabolic disease, including his research on celiac disease and his discovery of the biochemical pathway for the inborn disease of alkaptonuria.  

During his NIH years, he strove to have an impact nationally and was asked by the White House and NIH to represent the medical viewpoint in the President’s Office of Science and Technology, where he worked to shape national health science policy from 1969 to 1973.

He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Ruth Ann (Leventhal) Laster, two daughters, a son, and several grandchildren.

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