Dr. Bruce J. Leavitt was recently selected to receive the 2019 Bernard Lown Humanitarian Award as part of the University of Maine (UMaine) Alumni Association’s annual Alumni Achievement Awards. A 30-year resident of South Burlington, Leavitt is the division chief of cardiac and thoracic surgery at the University of Vermont College of Medicine and Medical Center. He has traveled to Rwanda, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Panama, Russia, and China to perform heart surgeries as part of Team Heart Cardiac Surgery Mission, Doctors Without Borders, and other humanitarian aid organizations.
“This is very special to me,” Leavitt said of the honor. “I really enjoy charitable work, mostly for the benefit of those who are in need across the globe. To have one’s undergraduate university recognize you with a special award for humanitarian service is very special to me and one of the greatest awards that I have received in my career.”
“The selection committee chose Dr. Leavitt for the award based on his selfless commitment of time, talents, and resources to help others, especially in parts of the world with limited or no access to healthcare,” said John Diamond, president and executive director of the UMaine Alumni Association.
A Maine native, after graduating from UMaine in 1977, Leavitt applied to UVM, which brought him to Green Mountain State.
“After seven years of training, I was fortunate enough to come to have my first job as an assistant professor of surgery and an attending in cardiac and thoracic surgery here at the Medical Center Hospital Vermont, which was its name at that time,” Leavitt said. “My wife is from Vermont and I really cherished the opportunity to come here and work in this wonderful community.”
The Bernard Lown Humanitarian Award recognizes dedication to outstanding service and impact at the regional, national or global level through active engagement in saving lives, relieving suffering, and promoting human dignity. Named after Dr. Bernard Lown, a 1942 UMaine graduate who co-founded two noteworthy humanitarian organizations with worldwide impact: Physicians for Social Responsibility, formed in 1961; and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, established in 1980. Dr. Lown accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 on behalf of Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
“Dr. Leavitt’s years of work with Team Heart and Doctors Without Borders, as well as with UVM’s medical school, made him a logical and most deserving recipient of the 2019 Lown Humanitarian Award,” UMaine President Diamond said. “Among our 109,000 alumni worldwide, he is considered one of UMaine’s most accomplished healthcare professionals –someone who is indeed making the world a better place.”
“I think what I find rewarding is the ability to take my skills in an environment that is not as easy to work with to help people who would not receive the care that they deserve,” said Leavitt.
The award will be presented Apr. 5 at the annual alumni achievement awards recognition dinner and ceremony in Orono, Maine.