Skip to Main Content


Robert J. Levine, MD, Emeritus Professor of Internal Medicine, Dies

March 16, 2021

Robert J. Levine, MD, professor emeritus of internal medicine, passed away peacefully on February 25, 2021, at his home in Hamden, Connecticut, where he resided with his wife of 33 years, Jeralea Hesse. Levine joined the faculty at Yale School of Medicine in 1964. He served for 30 years as the chair of the Human Investigation Committee and was well known nationally and internationally for his pivotal work in human subjects research. His book, titled Ethics and the Regulation of Clinical Research, and published in 1981 with a second edition in 1986, became required reading for every Institutional Review Board member.

Levine first came to Yale in 1962 as a chief medical resident at the Veterans Administration Hospital in West Haven after completing his training at George Washington University, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, and the National Heart Institute (now known as the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute). He returned to the National Heart Institute for a year and then came back to Yale as an instructor in medicine and pharmacology and clinical investigator at the VA in 1964. He was promoted to professor of medicine in 1973 and held several important leadership positions on the faculty including chief of the Section of Clinical Pharmacology (1966-1974), director of the Physician Associates Program (1973-1975) and director of Professional Responsibility course (1988-1991).

He also was one of the founding members of the Yale New Haven Hospital Bioethics Committee. With his colleague and friend, Margaret Farley, RSM, professor at Yale Divinity School, he led an interdisciplinary course in ethics at the medical school which evolved into the present Professional Responsibility course taken by all first-year students. He was a highly regarded mentor who worked closely with generations of medical students on their theses, including Associate Dean for Student Affairs Nancy Angoff, MD, MPH, MEd. Many of his mentees have gone on to forge their own careers in bioethics and research ethics and credit him with inspiring and exciting them about these fields. His other leadership roles in this area included his roles as director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS - Law, Policy and Ethics Core; co-chair of the Executive Committee of the Yale University Interdisciplinary Bioethics Program; director of the Donaghue Initiative in Biomedical and Behavioral Research Ethics; and founding director of the Yale University Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics.

Levine was a sought-after consultant and lecturer throughout the world and a prolific writer who was able to capture difficult concepts with a remarkably fluid and clear writing style. He was author of more than 300 articles and wrote many book chapters, reports, and essays. He also won many awards, including the Outstanding Achievement Medal from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for his role in the groundbreaking Belmont Report. He was a devoted fellow at Saybrook College at Yale delighting in dinners and conversations with undergraduates. He was an avid squash player who could be seen with his racquet in the halls of the School of Medeicine at a time when there were squash courts there.

He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather who will be deeply missed.

Submitted by Robert Forman on March 16, 2021