Dr. Levy, wife give back to community they love by trying to boost its health
Published: Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 7:57 p.m.
When Dr. Norman Levy and his wife, Roslyn, moved to Gainesville a little over 41 years ago, the warmth of the community amazed them.
Dr. Norman Levy
PERSONAL: Married to Roslyn; four children, Debra, Steven, David and Kenneth; 11 grandchildren
FAVORITE TV SHOW: Rarely watch
RECENT READING: “In Sunshine and in Shadow” by Mark Helprin (recommended to me by Joseph C. Cauthen, M.D., neurosurgeon extraordinaire)
PLAYING IN HIS CAR: “The Dovekeepers” by Alice Hoffman
FAVORITE LISTENING: Classical music
HOBBIES: Computer repair and maintenance, web construction, electronics
DREAM PARTNER FOR LUNCH: My wife
This was both literal — having moved from Michigan to Chicago and then to Gainesville — and a reflection of the friendships they quickly formed — most of whom they still count.
Today the Levys are eager to give back to the community that has nourished them for so long. A new joint initiative by the Alachua County Medical Society (ACMS), of which Norman is president, and the Alliance, comprised of doctors' wives and of which Roslyn is a member, aims to make good on that promise.
Called COACH, which stands for Combating Obesity for Alachua County's Health, the Alliance's first initiative debuts on Jan. 11, with a three-mile walk that will continue every Saturday through mid-March at the Santa Fe College track.
The idea is to reduce and prevent obesity in Alachua County, which is the state's 26th most obese county, Norman Levy said. They also hope to encourage good habits like healthy eating.
“It's my hope that at every walk we will have a couple of people say a few things about healthy lifestyles,” whether that means the fit of shoes or other healthy choices, Roslyn Levy said.
COACH was modeled after a San Diego County Children's Health Initiative.
“The idea is to bring together community-wide resources in one place,” said Norman Levy, an ophthalmologist.
Last spring, Surgeon General John Armstrong spoke to the ACMS about the importance of fighting obesity in Florida — for both health and financial reasons.
“This was one issue taking tremendous resources from the state and health care coffers,” said Levy, who predicts obesity-related care eats up 30 percent of total health care expenditures in the state and country.
“This reduces our ability to provide services to people (with conditions) that are not obesity-related,” he added.
The ACMS takes up other health causes in the community. It recently supported the Alachua County Commission's approval of an ordinance to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and ban their use in non-smoking areas of the county.
“We saw this as a potential recurrence of habits and associated deaths with cigarettes,” Levy said.
As president of the ACMS, Levy represents some 400 local physicians. He estimates there are about 2,600 physicians in Gainesville: 800-900 at UF Health, 400 in private practice, 800 fellows and residents and 600 medical students.
“The ACMS is the voice of medicine in Alachua County,” Levy said. “We do things that are good for the citizens of Alachua County.”
With the COACH initiative, they hope to restore Gainesville's reputation as “the healthiest community in America,” an accolade given in 2003 by the Wellness Councils of America.
Levy added that the ACMS is also charged with providing perspective on public issues.
For example, when Consumer Reports put out a report in August that gave both UF Health Shands Hospital and North Florida Regional Medical Center a low ranking for surgery outcomes in elderly patients, Levy felt compelled, in a letter to the newspaper, to clarify that the report's measure was flawed and it was not a reflection of the quality medical care in Alachua County. “We have some of the best medical care in America — here in Gainesville,” Levy said.
He added, “Medicine is probably the number one economic driving force in our community.”
The city also has a rich medical history, which is documented at the headquarters of the ACMS at the Robb House on Southwest Second Avenue, just west of downtown. The house, named after husband and wife Drs. Robert and Sarah Robb, is also the state's first medical museum, Levy said.
“Dr. Robb and his wife delivered over 1,000 babies and were really the mainstays of medicine in Alachua County prior to 1900.”
For Levy, 73, joining this rich history began in 1972, when he came to work at UF.
A few years later, he was ready to move on, but Roslyn wanted to stay.
“I was heartbroken at the thought of leaving,” she said. “It was such a lovely existence from the first day we got here. The main thing was that we had already made friends.”
Their four small children had also settled in, so they decided to stay, and Levy opened a private practice. Today his office on Northwest 11th Place has many awards, degrees and artwork covering the walls.
Roslyn, who was a photographer and printmaker, picked out many of the paintings and prints. One print contains renditions of the eye from artists such as Van Gogh and Michelangelo.
The office itself seems a touch of Norman Rockwell — with Dr. Levy's back office both lived-in and storied, with a bookshelf containing back issues of “House Calls,” the magazine of the ACMS, and pictures of his 11 grandchildren.
Up at the front of the office, college graduates who will attend medical school answer phones and do administrative tasks to prep themselves for the medical culture they will soon enter.
Levy has been hosting graduates for more than 25 years.
“I felt a real need to provide a transition education,” he said.
An expert in glaucoma, Levy said that he has also enjoyed the proximity of UF and being able to collaborate on research with colleagues there.
Hailing from a medical family — his father was a gynecologist — Levy considered neurosurgery before turning to ophthalmology. “I wanted to go into an area that was equally challenging but the outcomes were good,” Levy said.
Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.