NASPGHAN Celebrates Jewish American Heritage Month

In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, NASPGHAN would like to pay tribute to the remarkable life and legacy of Dr. Emanuel Lebenthal, a pioneering figure in pediatric gastroenterology whose clinical and investigative work has touched the lives of countless children worldwide. As memorialized on the NASPGHAN Timeline, Dr. Lebenthal was the founding editor of our Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, which was first published in April 1982. His career was marked by a deep commitment to his patients, a passion for research, and a dedication to mentoring the next generation of medical professionals.

Dr. Lebenthal was born in 1936 and pursued education at a number of prestigious institutions, including the Hebrew University, Tel-Aviv University, and Stanford University. It was during his time at Stanford that he collaborated with Dr. Norman Kretchmer on groundbreaking studies of gastrointestinal ontogeny, laying the foundation for his future work in the field of pediatric gastroenterology.

Moving to Boston, Dr. Lebenthal joined forces with Dr. Harry Shwachman, a partnership that included groundbreaking work on pancreatic development, enterokinase function, and cystic fibrosis. Dr. Shwachman’s compassion towards patients and families also profoundly influenced Dr. Lebenthal’s approach to medicine, shaping his own practice and inspiring him to pass on these values to his own proteges.

Dr. Lebenthal’s career continued to flourish in Buffalo, where his collaboration with Dr. P.C. Lee at the Gastroenterology Unit at Children’s Hospital elevated the institution to national prominence. In 1984, he founded the International Institute for Infant Nutrition and Gastrointestinal Disease, demonstrating his commitment to training physicians from developing countries and advancing pediatric healthcare worldwide. Later, he became Chair of Pediatrics at Hahnemann University in Philadelphia, before returning to the Hebrew University in Israel.

Dr. Lebenthal’s heritage is one of compassion, innovation, and excellence. As a prolific researcher, he authored over 200 peer-reviewed publications and edited 14 books, some of which have become standard texts in the field. But perhaps his greatest impact was as a teacher and mentor. Over 90 pediatric GI trainees from around the world benefited from his guidance, with many going on to hold academic appointments or leadership positions.

Finally, Dr. Lebenthal was a devoted husband to Hannah, a loving father to five children, and a proud grandfather to ten grandchildren. His commitment to his family was matched only by his dedication to his work, and his influence will continue to be felt for generations to come.

As we celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month, NASPGHAN honors Dr. Emanuel Lebenthal for his remarkable contributions to medicine, his unwavering compassion for his patients, and his lasting impact on our field of pediatric gastroenterology. His legacy serves as an inspiration to us all, reminding us of the power of dedication, hard work, and a commitment to improving the lives of others.

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Partners:

The Association of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition Nurses
Help & Hope for Children with Digestive Disorders
Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
JPGN Reports