Dr. Leo Lagasse '52

Leading an international mission for improving women's health.

Leo Lagasse '52, Doctor and Humanitarian

As a Cedars-Sinai Medical Center cancer specialist, Dr. Leo Lagasse was accustomed to performing surgery under the best conditions; then he learned how to operate under the worst conditions.

An African safari two decades ago inspired the renowned cancer surgeon to put his expertise to work where the resources were meager, but the need was great. As a result, he co-founded the nonprofit Medicine for Humanity, which provides surgical care to women in 24 countries throughout the world's developing nations. The organization has grown to where he is building an infrastructure to support ongoing work and education that teaches women how to best maintain their health. The benefits are many and varied, Leo says. "We know that helping to improve women's health creates healthier families, communities and countries."

In the organization's 16 years, Leo and the groups of interns who travel with him have helped heal many poor women who otherwise would have gone untreated. Leo, professor emeritus, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, continues to work "elbow to elbow" with surgeons in developing countries.

The gift of healing runs in both directions, and Leo draws strength from those he helps. "I am inspired by their spirit of wanting to improve their lives."