Alumna, former faculty member Martha Lepow passes away; services to be held Dec. 3

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine mourns the loss of a remarkable alumna, Martha Lipson Lepow, MD (MED ‘52), who died peacefully on Oct. 17 in her home in Slingerlands, New York, at the age of 94.

Lepow grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and after studying chemistry at Oberlin College, she enrolled at Western Reserve University Medical School. She was one of seven women in her class of 84 students, and graduated with honors in 1952.

She began her pediatric residency at Babies and Children’s Hospital, and was later transferred to Cleveland’s City Hospital (now MetroHealth Systems) where she worked with Frederick Robbins. Robbins—a Western Reserve University professor and later, dean of the medical school—invited her to work in his virus laboratory. Martha later became a faculty member, teaching, caring for patients and working on testing the Sabin, Rubeola and the Rubella vaccines.

While working in Robbins’s lab she met fourth-year medical student, Irwin H. Lepow (GRS ‘51, MED ‘58). Martha and Irwin were wed just two months later and shared 27 years of marriage. The couple eventually settled in upstate New York where Martha spent four decades at the Albany Medical Center, retiring only partially at age 92 and earning the title of professor emerita.

They remained active as Case Western Reserve alumni over the years, and donations from family and friends after Irwin’s death in 1984 established the endowment fund that supports the Martha L. Lepow, MD, & Irwin H. Lepow, MD, PhD, Medical Student Research Day. The annual event celebrates research conducted by medical students at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine with posters, oral presentations and a keynote lecture.

Nicholas P. Ziats, professor of of Pathology, Biomedical Engineering and Anatomy, serves as chair of the Lepow Research Day event and had the opportunity to meet with Martha. He remembers her “sharing fond memories of Cleveland and Western Reserve University, and her excitement and enthusiasm for meeting our students.”

“Our students were always amazed that she came to Cleveland and would engage with students about the science and research they presented,” he said. “Our entire medical community will miss having her attend these meetings and I will miss our wonderful conversations.”

Lepow was a national expert on childhood immunizations, and her contributions to vaccine research and development enabled the worldwide eradication of polio. She won numerous awards over the course of her distinguished career, including the School of Medicine Distinguished Alumna Award in 1987, and published over 100 research articles and book chapters.

Martha Lepow is survived by her daughter, Laurie; sons, David and Daniel; five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.