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Dr. David C. Levin, former fighter pilot and leading radiologist, dies at 85

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Dr. David C. Levin, 85, of Bryn Mawr, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and retired chairman of radiology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, died Wednesday, Jan. 15, at Lankenau Medical Center.

Dr. Levin was being treated at Lankenau for head trauma after experiencing cardiac arrest at his home, the family said.

For 35 years starting in 1967, Dr. Levin was a practicing radiologist. From 1986 until his retirement in 2002, Dr. Levin worked at Jefferson as a leader in the delivery of radiological services, his family said. Even after retiring, he worked part time as a consultant, researcher, and lecturer.

Dr. Levin established the Center for Research on Utilization of Imaging Services at Jefferson. In 2008, an endowed chair was created in his name.

“David Levin was a heart-and-soul faculty member of Jefferson, and such a fine person,” said Mark Tykocinski, provost of Thomas Jefferson University. “He had an illustrious career, winning recognition from every major radiology organization in the country. We’ll always remember him for his compassion, dedication, and mentoring of the next generation.”

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Born in Baltimore, Dr. Levin completed a medical degree at Johns Hopkins University and a radiology residency at the University of California at Los Angeles.

He held a series of faculty positions at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, and Harvard Medical School. While at Harvard, he was chairman of the radiology department at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

In 1986, he moved to Jefferson as a professor and chairman of the radiology department and spent the rest of his career there. He became a respected expert in vascular imaging, and a prolific researcher on imaging utilization trends, said the Radiological Society of North America in a tribute.

Dr. Levin was president of the Society of Chairmen of Academic Radiology Departments, chairman of the Council on Cardiovascular Radiology of the American Heart Association, and served on the editorial boards of six radiology journals.

He published 600 papers and abstracts and gave 670 presentations at national meetings or to audiences at institutions other than Jefferson. Among them were 27 special endowed lectures here and abroad.

Dr. Levin received gold-medal honors from the American College of Radiology, Radiological Society of North America, Association of University Radiologists, and the Society of Interventional Radiology.

His colleagues remembered him as a mentor and role model. “With David’s passing, the field of radiology lost a true leader of the highest integrity. Personally, I lost a mentor and friend. He will be missed,” wrote Dr. Richard D. White, of Columbus, Ohio, in an online message.

The news of his death shocked friends and colleagues. For most of his life, he was healthy and vigorous. He had only recently retired his running shoes, his family said.

Dr. Levin completed more than a dozen marathons in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. “He used to joke that he ran so that he could eat as much peanut butter as he wanted,” said his family. He was especially fond of peanut butter cups.

Dr. Levin was a former Air Force fighter pilot. He flew the F-86 Sabre Jet as a lieutenant in the 513th and 514th Fighter-Interceptor squadrons. The squadrons’ mission was air defense over Europe.

He began training in Georgia in 1956 and completed the schooling in August 1957. In June 1958, he was promoted to first lieutenant, according to his military records. In April 1959, he was honorably discharged to the reserves in which he served until June 1963.

His many stories about those years have been compiled into a book manuscript. The narrative showcases his charisma and passion, his family said.

Dr. Levin was married to Carol Levin. They raised a family in Bryn Mawr.

Besides his wife, he is survived by daughters Deborah and Sarah; a son, Gregory; and two grandchildren.

Plans for a memorial ceremony were pending.

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© 2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer