Specialty: General Surgery
Graduation Year: 1933
Leonard Scheele, M.D. ’33, was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., where his father owned a pharmacy. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and graduated from the Detroit College of Medicine and Surgery in 1933. He was encouraged by Dean MacCracken to accept a one-year internship in the public health service at Marine Hospital in Chicago, which he completed to earn his medical degree. He then accepted a commission as assistant surgeon in the Public Health Service and began a series of rotations at quarantine stations on the West Coast and in Hawaii.
In 1936 Dr. Scheele was reassigned to Washington, D.C., and was chosen to join a new Division of Public Health Methods, where he was soon made officer-in-charge of the new National Cancer Control program. During WWII he served in a number of important capacities, including the Medical Department of the U.S. Army in health-related governance in Occupied Territories, and leading the preventive medicine section of the Public Health Branch, Medical Division, at Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force. At the end of the war he became director of the Health, Welfare and Religion Division of the Allied Control Council in Berlin.
During his tenure as U.S. Surgeon General he served twice as president of the World Health Organization. In addition to his leadership in the Salk vaccine crisis, he played a major role in the public acceptance of the addition of fluoride to drinking water. He resigned from the Public Health Service in 1956 to become president of Warner-Chilcott Laboratories.
In 1961 President John F. Kennedy asked dr. Scheele to join the team negotiating the release of prisoners taken by Cuba during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. He traveled to Cuba, where he oversaw the transfer of millions of dollars in food and medical supplies to the Castro government in exchange for the release of 1,113 prisoners.
Wayne University presented an honorary degree of Doctor of Science to Dr. Scheele in 1950, and in 1958 he received the Distinguished Alumni Award.