Dr. Harold J. Levy, 94, pioneering psychiatrist practiced medicine for 71 years

By Anne Neville
Published October 17, 2019|Updated October 17, 2019

Feb. 15, 1925 — Oct. 2, 2019

As a young boy, Sanford Levy would get up at 6 a.m. to spend time with his father, Dr. Harold J. Levy, while he shaved, because the youngster was often asleep before his father's workday as a psychiatrist ended.

For many years, Sanford Levy said, his father started his day by seeing patients at Bry-Lin Hospital and Millard Fillmore Hospital, then worked in his private practice, Psychiatric Associates of WNY. After office hours, Dr. Levy would do consultations at Lafayette General, St. Francis, St. Joseph's and Sisters hospitals. He was a practicing physician for 71 years until retiring in 2017.

"His passion for caring for his patients was equaled by his passion for spending time with family," said Sanford Levy.

Dr. Harold J. Levy, of Canterbury Woods, a physician leader, teacher and philanthropist, died Oct. 2, 2019, in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital after a short illness. He was 94.

He was the only child of Evelyn Sperling and Sidney H. Levy, a pioneering radiologist and a 1915 graduate of the University of Buffalo School of Medicine.

In 1946, Dr. Levy graduated in UB's centennial class of 1946, becoming, at age 21, the school’s youngest graduate and youngest inductee to the local chapter of the Alpha Omega Honor Medical Society. When Sanford Levy, who is board-certified in internal medicine and holistic medicine, graduated in 1986, the Levys became a three-generation UB medical school family.

Dr. Levy completed his internship, residency and fellowship at the old E.J. Meyer Memorial Hospital. He then served in the Army for two years, as chief of psychiatry in Korea from 1948 to 1949 and as psychiatric consultant to the North Sector commander in Hawaii. He was honorably discharged with the rank of captain at age 23.

Dr. Levy was certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in 1955.

He met Arlyne G. Adelstein on a blind date at a medical conference that Dr. Levy attended with her father. They married on July 3, 1958, and in 1960 moved to Pomeroy Park in Eggertsville, where they raised their three sons.

Dr Levy was the first physician to do a research fellowship in psychosomatic medicine at UB, his son said, reflecting his lifelong interest in the connections between the mind and the body.

In 1968, Dr. Levy was named Chief of Psychiatry at Millard Fillmore Hospital, a post he held for more than 30 years. He also was medical director at Bry-Lin from the 1950s through the 1980s.

For more than 50 years, Dr. Levy taught medical students and psychiatry residents in the UB School of Medicine. At the time of his death, he was Emeritus Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

From the 1950s through about 1970, Dr. Levy was Chief of Psychiatry at Erie County Family Court's psychiatric clinic.

As chair of the Economics and Insurance Committee at the Erie County Medical Society, Dr. Levy worked to secure some health insurance coverage for psychiatric treatment, his son said. He was also a board member of Blue Cross for 13 years.

A founder of the WNY Psychiatric Association, Dr. Levy was a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

He was a past president and a general board member of the UB Medical Alumni Association.

After graduating from medical school, Dr. Levy donated to UB every year except for the two years he was in the Army. He chaired his medical school class reunions every five years, including his 70th reunion in 2016.

At his 65th reunion, Dr. Levy was presented with a Medical Alumni Association Lifetime Achievement Award. The Dean’s Conference Room in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is named for Dr. and Mrs. Levy.

Dr. Levy endowed a fund through the UB Department of Psychiatry to encourage research in psychosomatic medicine, and personally supervised residents working on such projects. He also endowed an undergraduate scholarship, a lecture and conference fund in the UB Department of Jewish Thought.

Dr. and Mrs. Levy were active in Temple Beth Zion, funding major technological innovations, including smart boards, streaming capacity and large-screen projections, for students and congregants.

Dr. Levy served on various committees at Temples Beth Zion and Beth El, was active in fundraising for the United Jewish Appeal and was the PTA representative to the Amherst School Board when his sons were in school.

Dr. and Mrs. Levy established a Levy Philanthropic Fund with the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies.

A devoted father and grandfather, Dr. Levy loved gardening, golf and spending summers on the Canadian shore of Lake Erie, his son said.

Besides Arlyne G. Levy, his wife of 61 years, Dr. Levy is survived by his three sons, Sanford, Richard and Kenneth; and six grandchildren.

A funeral was held Oct. 4 at Temple Beth Zion.