Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr. has published his second book, Equanimity Under Duress (Howard University Press 2014). With humility, grace, and keen insights, the book shares both its author’s victories and war wounds from a half century of combat in the fight against cancer. It offers candid perspectives on staunch allies in that battle, including former President George H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush, who volunteered their support and service to Dr. Leffall and others in the establishment of the National Dialogue on Cancer, now known as C-Change. Dr. Leffall also writes tenderly of fallen comrades such as Lena Horne, who supported his early advocacy at the American Cancer Society to bring attention to racial and ethnic disparities in cancer rates and treatment; and Zora Brown, founder of the Breast Cancer Resource Committee, an organization created to focus on the special needs of women of color for cancer treatment and prevention, who herself succumbed to the disease while battling it. Last, the book heralds future directions in cancer research and leaders such as those at the National Cancer Institute, whose ongoing work targets genetic factors associated with the more aggressive types of cancers and the development of vaccines and nanoparticle “weapons” to combat them.
The book’s title echoes one of Dr. Leffall’s favorite admonitions to his students, harkening back to the early 1900s and the book Aequanimitas by Sir William Osler, a Canadian physician and one of the four founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital. In his 50-plus years of teaching and practice, Dr. Leffall routinely demanded that his medical students take to heart Osler’s emphasis on maintaining a calm, courageous demeanor while confronting challenging and even chaotic patient and medical situations. The book’s five chapters likewise stress another disposition Dr. Leffall has steadfastly encouraged among, and consistently demonstrated throughout his distinguished career: an unfaltering devotion to the persons whom he believes should always be the uppermost object of surgeons’ affections—their patients.
This handsomely presented volume—replete with a DVD of an interview with the author, numerous photographs and full-color illustrations, relevant statistics, and information on cancer survivorship and advocacy groups—chronicles its author’s more than half a century of professional involvement in cancer treatment and prevention advocacy at the highest levels. Equanimity Under Duress expounds upon Dr. Leffall’s professional activities and interactions in ways that his earlier book, the autobiographical No Boundaries: A Cancer Surgeon’s Odyssey , also published by Howard, only touches upon.
With two heartfelt forewords, one by Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, Howard University’s newest president and Dr. Leffall’s handpicked successor to his enduring surgical practice, Equanimity Under Duress lays out a replicable battle plan for physicians and other health professionals eager to take their roles as patient advocates and navigators to the next level. Dr. Frederick recalls his earliest encounters with his mentor to conclude that he, like so many others, has been the beneficiary of a brilliant and powerful legacy. The introduction by Dr. Edward E. Cornwell III, currently chair of Howard’s Department of Surgery, offers an intimate portrait of the author as a true “Renaissance Man”—in turn scholar, surgeon, savant, and humanist—well into his 80th decade.