LeRoy J. Byrd, MD '64
As student, Dr. Byrd received financial aid; as medical alumnus, he is helping support it
Classes represented in this story: ’39, '64
Dr. LeRoy Byrd holds the Bishop’s Medal that he and his wife, Irene, were awarded in 2007 for their volunteer work with Catholic Charities.
With very little money and paying his own way through medical school in the 1960s, LeRoy J. Byrd, MD ’64, easily qualified for the role of class projectionist, a position given to the student with the greatest financial need. The projectionist was responsible for showing films and slides during course presentations at Marquette University School of Medicine but also for running presentations for city dignitaries in the evenings. It was during those evenings that Dr. Byrd formed a close relationship with the late Walter Zeit, PhD ’39, a now legendary Professor of Anatomy who was always at work during those late hours.
As a result, when Dr. Byrd decided to establish a planned gift to the Medical College of Wisconsin, he chose to support an endowment that honors Walter Zeit and provides an annual award to an outstanding senior medical student. Despite having modest income at the time, Dr. Byrd was able to make his gift via a life insurance policy. By taking the policy out on one of his sons, he was able to markedly reduce the premiums, and though it is not an immediate asset for the College, it represents future financial security.
“My parents, though they had minimal means, were always philanthropic in the manner their income would allow,” he said. “That was a great example to me, so I always thought that for any institution or person gracious to me, I could be gracious to them, and the way I could do that was through service and monetary means. So, the gift was in great thanks for the education I had received.”
Dr. Byrd has practiced medicine in Spokane, Wash., since 1970 after completing his residency at Mayo Clinic. Since January 2006, he now spends about four days a week in the office with six junior associates, continuing his focus on general internal medicine with a heavy emphasis on cardio-pulmonary disease.
“I feel that the most rewarding part of my practice is two-fold,” he said. “One is to be able to assist patients at the time of their greatest health need, and two is to establish a warm but healthy relationship with my patients, all of whom have been very gracious and thankful.”
Many of his patient relationships span multiple decades, especially since he stopped taking new patients 14 years ago. “Some of those patients kind enough to live this long despite my care are now 85 to 100 years old,” he said, jokingly.
Dr. Byrd has undertaken a number of leadership positions, stretching back to his service as student body president at various levels of his education, including his senior class in medical school. He is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. He has served as chairman and is still a member of the President’s Council for his undergraduate alma mater, Carroll College, and he has served on the school’s Board of Trustees and capital campaign committees.
A former President of the Medical Staff and Chairman of the Internal Medicine Committee at Holy Family Hospital in Spokane, Dr. Byrd has chaired four hospital capital campaigns. He also founded the Holy Family Foundation, which gathers funds for the sole purpose of obtaining technology for the hospital that would not otherwise be attainable through patient revenue.
A longtime member of Knights of Columbus, he also works several times a month at House of Charity, a place of refuge for socially or financially deficient people in the city. In 2007, his wife Irene, an RN, and he were awarded the Bishop’s Medal by the Spokane Diocese for their years of work with Catholic Charities. He and Irene have 10 living children, having lost two to death, and 14 grandchildren.
Dr. Byrd has helped the Medical College establish regular alumni dinners in the Spokane area and is also very active on his class reunion committees. He remains thankful for the opportunities that his medical education afforded him.
“I was thrilled and honored to be accepted to medical school and proceed to become a physician, and it propelled me in a career that was beyond my imagination,” he said.
TO GIVE: Visit www.mcw.edu/giving or contact Jonathan Kowalski in the Office of Development at
(414) 456-5824 or firstname.lastname@example.org.