Faculty member’s legacy: scholarships, professorship

Paul Levy

Paul Levy, one of the School of Public Health’s first professors, “was transformational in the field of epidemiology and biostatistics.” Photo: UIC Photo Services


The School of Public Health will establish student scholarships and an endowed professorship with a $1.4 million gift bequeathed by one of the school’s founding faculty members and his wife.

The endowment from Paul Levy and his wife, Virginia F. Tomasek, is the largest gift to the school from an individual.

Levy was the first director of the division of epidemiology and biostatistics, a position he held for 15 years. An innovative biostatistician, his expertise was sought by biomedical and public health researchers around the world.

“Paul Levy was transformational in the field of epidemiology and biostatistics,” said dean Paul Brandt-Rauf. “This gift will be transformational for the School of Public Health. Having an endowed professorship named after Paul Levy (the Paul Levy and Virginia F. Tomasek professorship) is certain to be a powerful attractant for top talent in the field because he did so much well-known, groundbreaking work.”

Levy’s studies of the effectiveness of the Illinois trauma system showed that the time it takes to get a patient to an emergency department is crucial in determining outcome.

His collaboration with University of Chicago cardiologist Stuart Rich helped establish the Patient Registry for Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. Data in the registry was used to design some of the first pharmacological strategies for reducing deaths from the disease.

In the early 1980s, Levy helped create data collection and analysis tools for the Centers for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the world’s largest ongoing phone-based health survey.  That system is “still yielding important health data that guides U.S. public health decision making,” said Ronald Hershow, associate professor of epidemiology and director of epidemiology and biostatistics.

Levy was a superb teacher, adviser and mentor to students and faculty, Hershow said. Former students visited him in North Carolina after he was paralyzed in a 2008 accident and several spoke at the memorial service after his death in 2012.

A long-distance runner, he placed first in his age category at age 62 in the 1999 Hustle up the Hancock, a 1,632-stair climb.

Levy and Tomasek married in 1990. She was a graduate of the Sophie Newcomb College of Tulane University and received a fellowship to study in Indonesia while a student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She earned an MBA from the University of Chicago and managed O.H. Bambas, a family business in Des Plaines. She died in 2013.

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