Dr. Marvin E. Levin, past president of B’nai El, dies at 91

Dr. Marvin E. Levin

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Dr. Marvin E. Levin, endocrinologist, diabetes specialist, adjunct professor of medicine at Washington University  and past president of B’nai El Congregation, died Sunday, April 30. He was 91 and a longtime resident of greater St. Louis.

Dr. Levin was born on Aug. 11, 1924 in Terre Haute, Ind., the son of Benjamin and Bertha Levin (whose maiden name was also Levin).  His father owned the Mitzi Shops, which sold women’s hats in the early 1920s. Dr. Levin came to St. Louis with his parents at the age of 7. He graduated from Soldan High School.

During World War II,  Dr. Levin was stationed in San Francisco at the Letterman Army Hospital in the Presidio. He was a medical assistant on specially designed hospital train cars that took soldiers injured in the Pacific theater to East Coast Army hospitals that specialized in treating specific injuries.

After military service, Dr. Levin attended Washington University, where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. He earned his bachelor of arts and medical degrees there.

Active in the Jewish community of St. Louis, Dr. Levin was a longtime member of  B’nai El Congregation and served as its president. He served for 17 years on the board of the New Mount Sinai Cemetery Association and was granted the status of Honorary Life Member in 2014. He also served for many years as a board member of the Missouri-Southern Illinois Regional Board of the Anti-Defamation League.

Dr. Levin served for 10 years on the admissions committee of the Washington University School of Medicine. He said  he enjoyed interviewing medical school applicants.

He was on the staff of Barnes Hospital and Jewish Hospital before they became Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He was also on the staff of St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Although he was not a pediatrician, he admitted adolescent children with diabetes who were too young to be admitted to a general hospital such as Barnes or Jewish.

Dr. Levin was internationally known for his work on preventing amputations of the lower extremities in patients with diabetes. As a visiting professor in the field of diabetes, he lectured in medical schools and hospitals internationally. He lectured in many  countries, including Great Britain, Australia, Indonesia, Egypt, Taiwan and Canada, on peripheral vascular disease and the problems of the diabetic foot. He was one of 15 world-renowned endocrinologists who spent three years teaching and lecturing in China. He also traveled to Cairo with a group of endocrinologists to lecture on diabetes and the diabetic foot.

One of Dr. Levin’s greatest pleasures was teaching the art of taking a medical history and performing a physical examination to students, interns and residents at a patient’s bedside.

In recognition of his skill as an instructor, he received a Montblanc pen, which he treasured, from his endocrine research fellows with the inscription “to our teacher and friend.” He received a book from two of his students inscribed “for  services rendered, always cheerfully, always with interest, always with energy — our sincere thanks.”  He also was given a textbook inscribed by its author “with affection, admiration and best wishes. You have long been an inspiration to all of us here at the medical center. Thanks again for your teaching, inspiration, generosity and strong support.”

Dr. Levin was the author of more than 150 articles in medical journals and chapters in textbooks. Perhaps his greatest contribution was the highly acclaimed book “The Diabetic Foot,” with endocrine surgeon Lawrence W. O’Neal, published by Mosby in 1973; a seventh edition was published in 2007.  

“This text became the bible for an emerging generation of diabetic foot specialists,” said Dr. Lee J. Sanders, a podiatrist, professor and medical historian.

Dr.  Levin also was editor in-chief of the journal Clinical Diabetes and co-editor of Diabetes Spectrum, published by the American Diabetes Association, both of which are still in publication.

Among the many honors Dr. Levin received are Outstanding Clinician in the Field of Diabetes and Outstanding Physician Educator in the Field of Diabetes, awarded by the American Diabetes Association, which also set up a traveling scholarship in his name for young researchers in the field of diabetic foot research.

Dr. Levin was awarded an honorary membership in the American Dietetic Association “in  recognition of his distinguished career.” He received the Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award and the Faculty Achievement Award from the Washington University School of Medicine. He also received an award from the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Lipid Research in recognition of his dedicated service to excellence and patient care.

He served as a board member of the American Diabetes Association and was a past president of the American Diabetes Association, St. Louis Section. 

Dr. Levin was known for his sense of humor and was often called the Henny Youngman of diabetes by his colleagues and friends.

Dr. Levin is survived by his wife, the former Barbara Symes; two daughters, Lynn Levin of Southampton, Pa., and Judith Levin of St. Louis; a son, Michael (Kennyann Cook) of St. Louis; and three grandchildren. A brother, Richard Levin, is deceased. Funeral services were planned for May 4 at Congregation Shaare Emeth, where Rabbi Jim Bennett was to officiate.  

Contributions in Dr. Levin’s memory may be made to the American Diabetes Association, 425 South Woods Mill Road, Town and Country, Mo. 63017 or to the charity of the donor’s choice.