Remembering the Work of Dr. Leonidas Berry

Berry receives the Rush Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1987.

By Nathalie Wheaton and Rene Ruzicka

Gastroenterologist Leonidas H. Berry was born in 1902 in Woodsdale, North Carolina. He earned his M.D. from Rush Medical College in 1929, when Rush was affiliated with  the University of Chicago. In 1933, he received his M.S. degree in pathology from the University of Illinois Medical School. He was the first black physician appointed to the medical attending staffs at Cook County Hospital and Michael Reese Hospital.

Berry offered contributions in the field of gastroenterology, including the creation of the Eder-Berry biopsy gastroscope in 1955. He set up one of the first gastroscopy clinics in the United States while serving as chairperson of the Gastroenterology Division of Provident Hospital. And he was the first American physician to use the fiber-optic gastro-camera.

He authored almost a hundred articles and contributed to 12 books and monographs, including the comprehensive textbook Gastrointestinal Pan-Endoscopy. Additionally, he authored a genealogical history of his family entitled, I Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ For My Journey: Two Centuries of an Afro-American Minister’s Family, which was published in 1982.

Berry received many honors and awards, including the Rudolph Schindler Award from the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy in 1977 and Rush’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1987. In 1989, the NAACP awarded him the Freedom Award for Public Service, and in 1991 he received the Trustee Medal of Honor from Rush Medical College. Berry was president of the National Medical Association in 1965. That same year, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the National Advisory Council for the Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke Program. A society in Berry’s name, the Leonidas H. Berry Society for Digestive Diseases, was established in 1980.

In addition to his achievements in the field of gastroenterology, Berry was dedicated to civil rights, anti-drug initiatives, and cultural exchange programs.

The Rush Archives is proud to hold some of the papers of Leonidas H. Berry, including correspondence, writings, programs, awards, and photographs.  For more information, you can find a finding aid for his collection through the Rush Archives Web site.

If you would like to see the Leonidas H. Berry Papers or have any questions about the history of Rush, email Rush_Archives@rush.edu

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