Remembering Norm Levin

  • Sullivan, Larry, MD
| Mar 21, 2022

norm levinDr. Norman Levin, M.D. died on February 9, 2022 at the age of 85. Norm was a legendary fixture in the CSA, ASA, and CMA, and he was revered by all as colleague, mentor, advisor, and friend. He served as President of the CSA from 1988-89, succeeding another illustrious leader, Dr. Thomas Joas, who also died recently.

So much has been said about Dr. Levin as the consummate medical professional who valued patient care above all but his family. Norm was a native of Michigan, and a loyal “Wolverine” alum.  He attended medical school at U.C. Irvine, interned at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, and he received his specialty training in anesthesiology at UCLA- Harbor General Hospital. Following three years of military service as Chief of Anesthesia at the Army Hospital in Wurzberg, Germany, Norm returned to California, where he established his practice of anesthesiology at Century City Hospital in Los Angeles. Norm and his wife, Gay, were married for 59 years, and she, as well as their three children and numerous grandchildren, survive him.

The CSA has been blessed with dynamic and forward-thinking physician leaders in its illustrious history. Names of many such leaders quickly come to mind, some of whom rose to the pinnacle of ASA leadership. But few have acquired the lofty stature and overall respect within organized medicine as did Dr. Norman Levin. Norm joined CSA early in his career, quickly assuming leadership roles in the CSA House of Delegates and its numerous committees, before ascending to the presidency in June 1988.  Foremost in Norm’s repertoire was his unique ability to appreciate and comprehend the multiple challenges confronting practicing anesthesiologists in hospitals and various ambulatory surgical facilities. He wisely embraced and promoted the concept of patient safety in the surgical environment, advocating for the adoption of standards of practice to protect patients during a surgical or obstetrical experience. His commitment to pain relief for his patients led to the development of pioneering pain management strategies within our specialty. 

Norm was intimately involved in the CSA’s role of combating the egregious and unfair malpractice lawsuits against physicians of all specialties in California in the mid-1970s.  His efforts and the efforts of other physicians led to the adoption of the historic tort reform legislation known as MICRA (the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act) in 1975. In the resulting emergence of physician owned -medical malpractice companies, Norm was a founding member and leader with one of those companies, CAP MPT. 

Among Norm’s other notable achievements was his long-time involvement in the ASA hierarchy as evidenced by multiple key committee appointments over many years.  Because of his reputation for detail and his appreciation of institutional bylaws, Norm served with distinction for many years on both the CSA and the ASA bylaw committees.  Additionally, for many years, Norm had significant influence representing the CSA as a member of the CMA Specialty Delegation within the CMA House of Delegates. In this multispecialty forum, Norm would eloquently garner support on issues critical to practicing anesthesiologists.

Throughout his personal and professional life, Dr. Norm Levin was revered, not only for his dedication to his patients and to his family, but for his steadfast, deliberate, patient, and respectful demeanor. Many CSA and ASA members who pursued involvement in their professional organizations have expressed their gratitude for Norm’s sage wisdom and invaluable mentoring.  In recognition of his innumerable contributions to our specialty, in 2001 the CSA presented him with their Distinguished Service Award.

Upon learning of Norm’s passing, former ASA and CSA President Dr. Peter McDermott, M.D. expressed the following: “I am saddened by the loss of Norm Levin. I have known him for more than 40 years. Respect and admiration are only a part of my working with him. He was a friend -- a kind, caring, wonderful friend. He served his specialty and the societies that represented it; he, foremost, served his patients in a professional capacity, caring for them and representing their needs and entitlements. I grieve with Norm's mortal loss, but I thank God for the goodness he epitomizes.”

Additionally, former CSA President Dr. Virgil Airola, M.D., added these comments: “I, too, am saddened by Norm’s passing. He was a consummate gentleman—always attentive and reserved, yet when asked to help or to offer an opinion, Norm would pitch in and bring his insightful intellect and knowledge to the task. His opinions always demanded everyone’s respect, in part because he reserved expressing them for when they were most needed and helpful. Everyone who knew him will miss his warm smile, his joyful chuckle, and his welcoming personality.  He was one of the great physician leaders in organized medicine.”

May he rest in peace.


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