Skip Navigation


In MemoriamLeon Gordis

Professor Leon Gordis

Those who had the privilege of knowing Leon Gordis—his family, friends, colleagues and students—would agree that he was passionately committed to epidemiology.

He was the son of Fannie and Robert Gordis, a prominent Conservative rabbi, author and biblical scholar at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. Leon received undergraduate degrees from both Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary and then his medical degree from SUNY Downstate.  He completed his pediatrics training at Hopkins and Sinai Hospital while also a member of the U.S. Public Health Service. Leon earned his MPH (’66) and DrPH (’68) from Hopkins, with Abraham Lilienfeld, prominent pioneer of public health, as his advisor.

He joined the faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health (as it was then known) in 1971, teaching epidemiology. He then became chair of the Department of Epidemiology in 1975, a position he held until 1993.

During his tenure at Hopkins, Leon designed and taught courses at both the School of Public Health and the School of Medicine, where he became Associate Dean for Admissions and Academic Affairs. He also authored Epidemiology, now in its fifth edition, and considered by many as the seminal textbook on epidemiologic principles and clinical practice applications. PowerPoint slides taken directly from the book have been translated for public health students around the world—a tribute to his impact on the field.

He established a cardiovascular fellowship program in 1980 with an institutional grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. More recently, Leon was named a visiting professor at Tel-Aviv University School of Medicine and School of Public Health in 2007. The Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research, which has enriched the schools of public health, medicine and nursing, is in no small part a culmination of Leon’s vision and commitment to collaboration.

His curriculum vitae encapsulated more than a half century of research and scholarship. Leon was a member of numerous professional organizations, served on several boards and committees, and published more than 100 papers in scholarly journals. But teaching gave him the most gratification. His lectures were models of clarity and communication, infused with humor. Leon was always incredibly welcoming and supportive of students. Dr. Moyses Szklo, fellow professor in the Department of Epidemiology, summed it up best: “He was a dear friend and mentor, and one of the best teachers the School ever had.”

Contributions to honor and remember Dr. Gordis may be made to “Leon Gordis Memorial Fund” at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Navigate to the giving form through this link. Complete the giving form as required, being certain to check "In memory of" and add "Leon Gordis" in the text field in Step 3 of the giving form.

Should you wish to send a check by mail, make your check payable to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and note Leon Gordis on the memo line. Mail the check to:

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Office of External Affairs - Development
615 North Wolfe Street, E2132
Baltimore, MD 21205

Should you have any questions about making a gift, or other ways to do so, please call the Office of External Affairs for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health at 410-955-5194 during regular office hours for assistance.