Psychiatrist Leah J. Dickstein, MD is a former president of the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) and former vice-president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Dr. Dickstein created the innovative Health Awareness Workshop Program at the University of Louisville based on her experience attending medical school while raising a family. The popular program, which covers everything from individual well-being to personal relationships, as well as race and gender issues, has made the University of Louisville one of the nation’s most family-friendly medical colleges.
In 1966, six years after working as a sixth-grade teacher in Brooklyn to support her medical student husband, Herbert, Leah Dickstein entered medical school herself. One of only six women in her class, she had to balance academic responsibilities with the demands of raising three sons. She was clear about her priorities and chose to save Saturdays and summers for family activities, rather than graduate at the top of her class. Her husband, a pathologist, helped keep her close to her sons, even bringing them to visit her while she was on call during residency.
In 1981 when the innovative Health Awareness Workshop Program at the University of Louisville was eliminated, Dr. Dickstein moved this service to the Health Sciences Center and continued to treat medical students, residents and graduate students. At this time, she became Associate Dean for Student Affairs. The Health Awareness Workshop Program addressed everything from study skills and time-management to exercise, nutrition, community resources and mentoring. The message was that students must take care of their own physical and mental health before they can learn to take care of others. As director, Dr. Dickstein helped teach medical students and their partners how to cope with the demands of medical school. Following this, Dr. Dickstein became Associate Dean for Faculty and Student Advocacy in 1989. In this position, she developed protective programs for junior faculty, a regional program for women faculty from Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Indiana and many novel proactive support programs for medical students. After a long and wonderful career enriching the lives of others, Dr. Dickstein retired in 2002. She continues to mentor medical students and serves as a faculty advisor to residents of Tufts Psychiatry Program. Many scholarships and awards have been created in her honor.