Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dr. Milam E. Leavens

Milam E. Leavens, M.D. passed away May 3, 2011. Born in Houston, Texas June 28, 1926, Milam was a proud descendant of Texas hero Ben Milam. Making his own mark on Texas history, Dr. Leavens was one of the youngest Baylor College of Medicine graduates. He served our country in the U.S. Army as a MASH unit Neurosurgeon during the Korean War. In 1979 he became the first Chief of Neurosurgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center and held that position until 1990.

Specializing in brain tumors, he was the first Texas surgeon to perform transsphenoidal surgery, removing a pituitary tumor through the sinus cavity. He also established the training program for medical students at MD Anderson for Neurosurgery residents. His multiple medical accomplishments earned him the Ashbel Smith Professorship in 1992. Even after his retirement in 1995 he continued to participate in the educational activities of the department. For the past 17 years he was honored by the Houston Neurological Society with the Milam E. Leavens, MD Annual Lecture Series.

Dr. Leavens met and married the love of his life, the late Jeanette Pearson Leavens in 1949.

Married 55 years, they had 3 children; son James E. Leavens, J.D.; son Tom Leavens, M.D. and wife Adelaide; daughter Julie J. Size and husband Donald; Granddaughters Emily and Joy; and 2 great grandchildren.

Milam's life was much more than his medical career. He was an accomplished classical pianist and organist, serving for many years as the Assistant Organist at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. He especially enjoyed playing the works of J.S. Bach and Beethoven. He once stated that to know their works was to know genius. An advanced amateur astronomer; he had begun meticulously mapping the heavens by hand as a young boy. This love of nature and God's wonders led him to further study the heavens and chart the Messier Objects with his own sophisticated telescopes throughout his life. An avid athlete, naturalist, and mountaineer, he summited several dozen fourteen thousand foot peaks in Colorado, hiked the Grand Canyon twice, and hiked extensively throughout the Chisos Mountains and the Chihuahua Desert in Big Bend National Park. All the while he studied the flora, fauna, bird life, and geology with professorial intensity combined with a childlike sense of wonder. He loved his family and together we learned to play music, scuba dive, snow ski, mountain climb and travel the world. He will be missed.

Dad putting his expert surgical skills to work!


Michelle said...

What a fantastic write up about your Dad. Thanks for sharing it Julie! Hope you're doing ok!

Dianne said...

How proud you must be. He was certainly an amazing man. This write up is a real tribute.
I hope you and Don are doing alright Julie. I have thought of you so often this past week.
Thanks for sharing this with us.

vivian said...

wow Julie, It sounds like he was a remarkable intelligent and interesting man. and I know he was a wonderful father too. I love the closet and presents story! I'm sooooooo very sorry for your loss. I hope your hanging in there. ((((((hugs))))))
Ps... Julie, I would love to make you a memory bear out of something of your dads. let me know if you are interested. It would be a gift of course.
more hugs!

RiverBend Farm said...

Julie, you have truly been on my mind this past week. My heart has been grieving for you. This write up on your dad was beautiful. It's so very hard to lose our heroes but I'm sure you find some comfort knowing that your Mom and Dad are back in each other's arms surrounded by loved ones and with God's arms wrapped around them all.
Blessings and hugs to you,

phaedra96 said...

He sounds like he was an amazing person and has created three more amazing persons to carry on for him. Thank you for sharing.

RiderWriter said...

What a wonderful tribute, and what a remarkable man! I love the first photo highlighting his hands, hands that I'm absolutely sure saved many, many lives. How fortunate you are to have had such a vital and accomplished parent. I know your mother was special, too. And they did a terrific job raising their beautiful daughter! :-)

MEME said...


Jason said...

Mrs. Size;

I met Dr. Leavens many years ago as he was a colleague of my father, the late Dr. Samuel Hassenbusch, at MD Anderson. Over the past 5 years I have been working at MD Anderson and Dr. Leavens would call me regularly with MD Anderson questions and also to chat about his adventures or museum exhibits. He was a brilliant man and has touched many lives.
~Jason Hassenbusch

Kat aka Beachkat said...

Wow Julie, what a beautifully written tribute to your handsome talented Dad! I've had you on my mind. I pray you're doing okay.


Gayla said...

This was a beautiful tribute. I am thinking of you. As someone who lost her daddy nearly four years ago, I will say it really doesn't get better... but it gets easier.... Hugs.

antiquesartandbeer said...

Hi, My name is Beverly Sanders. Dr. Leavens was the most marvelous person in the world. I was one of his first MD Anderson patients to go through the operation that he perfected for pituitary tumors back in 1979. He held my hand and looked into my eyes as I drifted off to sleep while counting backwards a total ten times over next 8 years. I never let them put me to sleep unless he was right there. He always would say, "OK, God, let's do it" and then we would! He always gave God credit for every successful procedure. He was a marvelous and humble man. He and I both felt that my tumors originated from too many falls from the horses - you see, I rode hunters and jumpers from age 7 until I met him - he made me stop! I was 25 then - I am 57 now, with 2 wonderful children as well as 2 fantastic grandsons. I once had a solo art exhibit on Westheimer/Houston at St. Luke's United Methodist Church that I dedicated to your father. He and your mother actually came to Clear Lake to my home for dinner one evening. They advised me to NOT marry the man I introduced them to! To keep looking! I loved that man very much. He was an 'adopted father' and a fabulous doctor to me. I could go on and on, but this will have to do. Thank you for sharing, Beverly Sanders, Shiner and Houston, TX

Ginger said...

Julie I am so sorry to read that your dad passed away. I am not blogging now and haven't been by to see your posts, but I was thinking about you and wanted to say hi. I scrolled back to old posts and saw this.
What a wonderful tribute to your dad, did you write it?