Skip to main content

UW Medicine lost one of our most influential and unforgettable leaders when Dr. John “Jack” Lein died on Sunday at the age of 92.  With the vision of a pioneer and a heart of gold, he left an indelible mark on medical education and research in our state and region.

Dr. Lein was born in Spokane and received his medical degree from the UW School of Medicine in 1955. After completing his residency at Indiana University Medical Center, he became an obstetrician in Spokane. In 1964, he joined the faculty in our Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and accepted an administrative role as director of continuing medical education and associate dean of medicine. He later became vice president for Health Sciences (1984 to 1992) and then director of federal relations from 1992 to his retirement in 1996.

As a co-founder of the WWAMI program with Drs. Robert Van Citters and Roy Schwarz in 1971, Dr. Lein recognized the need to train more doctors for rural and underserved areas. He also saw an opportunity for the UW School of Medicine to become a leader in regional medical education. To gain support for the program, he traveled extensively to build relationships with doctors and legislators in Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (the four original states).

Dr. Lein also brought faculty members from Seattle on “circuit rides” to meet local medical doctors. Through these tours, he wanted the visiting faculty members to learn about the importance and needs of community-based doctors. At the same time, he assumed correctly that these relationships would encourage local doctors to refer their patients to our clinics and hospitals in Seattle for specialized care.

In the 1980s, I had the good fortune to join Dr. Lein on one of these driving tours as part of my orientation to the WWAMI program. It remains one of my most powerful memories and has guided my efforts to support community-based teaching ever since.

In his role as vice president of Health Sciences, Dr. Lein worked with the deans of all the Health Sciences Schools and oversaw two hospitals, student health services and public relations. According to John Coulter, former associate vice president for medical affairs and executive director for Health Sciences Administration, this was such a big role that it was divided in three positions when Dr. Lein became director of federal relations.

Dr. Lein was ideally suited for his federal role too. He developed personal and professional relationships with key political leaders in Washington state, including Senator Warren Magnuson, Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, and Speaker of the House Thomas Foley, and throughout the WWAMI region. Through these relationships, he was instrumental in securing funds for our research programs from the National Institutes of Health and other agencies. This success continues to this day in that the UW School of Medicine is second only to Harvard in federal research grants.

With the news of his passing, Dr. Lein’s friends and colleagues are remembering him above all for his engaging and caring personality. John Coulter wrote that “he was a most unforgettable character with a heart of gold. Knowing and working with him was a truly wonderful and never to be forgotten experience.” He was also remembered as a storyteller, who could leave audiences rolling with laughter, and for going out of his way to connect people who needed medical care with timely and appropriate referrals to UW Medicine.

Prior to his retirement in 1996, Dr. Lein was honored by our state’s congressional delegation in Washington D.C. In their remarks, they expressed admiration for his exceptional career and thanked him for his role in making the UW School of Medicine one of the nation’s premier research and health sciences facilities.

I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Jack’s wife, Claire, and his children, Mike and Pat. I believe that Dr. Lein described his legacy best when he accepted the UW Medicine Alumni Service Award in 2010 and said that “our alumni are graduates of one of the best medical schools in the country.”


Paul G. Ramsey, M.D.CEO, UW Medicine

Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and
Dean of the School of Medicine, University of Washington 

Leave a Reply