UIC School of Public Health gets $1.4 million endowment

Paul Levy

Paul Levy was a founding member of the School of Public Health. Photo: UIC Photo Services

The University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health has received a $1.4 million gift from the estate of Dr. Paul Levy and his wife, Virginia F. Tomasek. Levy was a founding member of the school and the first and longest-serving director of its division of epidemiology and biostatistics, a position he held for 15 years.

A highly innovative biostatistician whose expertise was widely sought by biomedical and public health researchers around the world, Levy, through his work, improved the lives of millions.

The gift, the largest to the school from an individual, will support the first endowed professorship in the division – the Paul Levy and Virginia F. Tomasek Professorship. It will also serve as an enduring source of student scholarships.

“Paul Levy was transformational in the field of epidemiology and biostatistics,” said Paul Brandt-Rauf, dean of the UIC School of Public Health. “This gift will be transformational for the School of Public Health. Having an endowed professorship named after Paul Levy is certain to be a powerful attractant for top talent in the field because he did so much well-known, groundbreaking work.”

Levy’s investigation into the effectiveness of the Illinois trauma system showed that the time it takes to get a patient to an emergency department is a crucial factor in determining outcome.

A collaboration with University of Chicago cardiologist Dr. Stuart Rich helped establish the Patient Registry for Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. Data in the registry was used to design some of the first pharmacological strategies for reducing deaths from the disease.

In the early 1980s, Levy helped create data collection and analysis tools for the Centers for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the world’s largest ongoing phone-based health survey.  That system is “still yielding important health data that guides U.S. public health decision making,” said Ronald Hershow, associate professor of epidemiology and director of the division of epidemiology and biostatistics.

Levy was also a superb teacher, advisor and mentor to students and faculty, Hershow said. Former students visited him in North Carolina after a 2008 accident left him paralyzed, and several spoke at his 2012 memorial service.

Levy and Virginia F. Tomasek married in 1990. Tomasek was a graduate of the Sophie Newcomb College of Tulane University and received a fellowship to study in Indonesia while a student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She earned an MBA from the University of Chicago and managed O.H. Bambas, a family business in Des Plaines, Illinois. She died in 2013.