Cancer Center’s First Director, Howard Lessner, M.D., Passes Away

Howard Lessner, M.D., who became the first director of the University of Miami’s Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1972, passed away on April 18 at South Miami Hospital. He was 85.

Born in Philadelphia, Dr. Lessner, professor emeritus of oncology and the first chair of the Department of Oncology at the medical school, was an esteemed oncologist who served the greater Miami community for more than 50 years, working at Baptist Hospital, Cedars Medical Center and Jackson Memorial Hospital.

“Dr. Lessner remained a highly respected colleague in the community to the time of his death,” said W. Jarrard Goodwin, M.D., chief medical officer for the cancer center’s successor, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Sylvester Professor of Otolaryngology. “We are very proud of the legacy he started here at the University.”

Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., said all of South Florida has benefitted from Dr. Lessner’s enduring legacy as both an educator and a physician who brightened the lives of people with cancer.

“I never had the privilege of working with Dr. Lessner, but I know he was a mentor to and a great influence on many graduates of the medical school who, like his grateful patients, remember him as a true gentleman and a master clinician,’’ the Dean said. “We are lucky to count him among our pioneers.”

Michael Troner, M.D., a former UM faculty member and attending physician at Baptist Hospital who worked alongside Lessner for 26 years, said he was, indeed, as wonderful mentor as he was a superb clinician and everybody who knew him regarded him as “one of the kindest, gentlest men to walk the halls of the medical school.”

Lessner is survived by his wife Shaloma Shawmut-Lessner, his children Daniel, Jonathan, and Sharon (Eisenberg), grandchildren Sasha, Jake, Hali, Alec, Emily, Noah, and Josh, and his niece Rochelle Lessner.

Services were held at Lakeside Memorial Park on April 20.

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