L. Rickman, 47; Expert on Infections, Bioterrorism

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From a Times Staff Writer

Dr. Leland Rickman, a UC San Diego expert on infectious diseases and, since Sept. 11, 2001, a consultant on bioterrorism, has died. He was 47.

Rickman died June 24 while on a teaching assignment in Lesotho, a small country bordered on all sides by South Africa. He had complained of a headache, but the cause of death was not immediately known.

The physician had been working in Lesotho with Dr. Chris Mathews, director of the UC San Diego Medical Center’s Owen Clinic, teaching African medical personnel about the prevention and treatment of AIDS.


Rickman, the incoming president of the Infectious Disease Assn. of California, was a multidisciplinary professor and practitioner with expertise in infectious diseases, internal medicine, epidemiology, microbiology and antibiotic utilization.

He was active in the San Diego County Medical Society’s Group to Eradicate Resistant Micro-organisms, writing its report on bioterrorism for local health-care providers, and helped train county personnel to handle bioterrorism threats.

After the U.S. anthrax deaths in the fall of 2001, Rickman talked with medical and citizens groups around the country about identifying and reporting symptoms of apparent biological agents, including anthrax, sarin gas and smallpox.


He had earned more teaching awards than any of his faculty colleagues, prompting his Department of Medicine chairman, Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, to say he had considered creating “a new award -- teacher of excellence -- to be awarded to Lee in perpetuity.... “

“His loss,” Kaushansky said, “was not only to those of us at UCSD but to the world.”

Born in Cleveland, Rickman earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a medical degree from the University of Michigan, completed his internship and residency at UC San Diego. He also studied infectious diseases on a fellowship at the Naval Hospital in San Diego. After working five years for the Navy, he joined the UC San Diego faculty in 1990.

Rickman is survived by his wife, Susan Kanfer; his father, Leonard; and a sister, Janine Rickman Novatt. Memorial services are pending. The family has asked that any memorial donations be made to the Hadassah Medical Organization in Israel through the San Diego Area Resource Center, 5755 Oberlin Drive, San Diego, CA 92121.