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Donald Lewis Leake

Professor-In-Residence, Dentistry and Surgery

Los Angeles



Dr. Donald Lewis Leake, surgeon and oboist, passed away on December 31, 1997 at the age of 66. One career was not enough for this talented man. His colleagues will always remember Don as a man who was devoted to his family, his profession, his residents and his music.


Don was born November 6, 1931 in Cleveland, Oklahoma and moved to Long Beach, California at 6 years of age. Don had a gift for music at an early age. He began studying under the renowned oboist, Henri de Busscher at the University of Southern California in 1949. The influences of de Busscher, Bach and chamber music would shape his entire career as a performing artist. He attended USC (AB and Phi Beta Kappa, 1953; M.A. musicology, 1957) and spent a year as Fulbright Scholar in Brussels, Belgium (1956) where he received 1st prize with greatest distinction for oboe and chamber music from the Royal Conservatory of Music. Don was principal oboist with the Robert Shaw Chorale (1954-55), the San Diego Summer Symphony (1954-59), and many other ensembles including motion picture studio orchestras. He recorded works by Stockhausen, Schonberg, and Schutz, and performed world-premier solo oboe works by Darius Milhaud, William Kraft, Alice Parker, Mark Volkert, Eugene Zador, and Robert Linn.


Don also dedicated his life to a career in dentistry and medicine and was able to balance careers in the health professions and in music for the rest of his life. He received a D.M.D. from Harvard University (1962) and completed a residency and a postdoctoral fellowship in oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital (1963-66). Don met his wife Rosemary, a Pediatrician, at Harvard. He received an M.D. from Stanford University in 1969. During these years of dental and medical training, Don maintained an active music career, playing chamber music in Boston and performing with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra. Darius Milhaud wrote the “Stanford Serenade” for solo oboe and eleven instruments and dedicated it to Don upon his graduation. A 1970 review in the Oakland Tribune paid homage to the performance: “The Boston surgeon brought such a wealth of technique and feeling into his oboe solos that the M.D. on his university diploma, we would guess, could well stand for Musician in Disguise. Exquisite all the way.”


Don served for 26 years on the faculties of the UCLA School of Dentistry and the UCLA School of Medicine. He was a Diplomat of the American Board of Oral Surgery. As chief of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, he trained 50 surgeons and 16 fellows, performed or supervised approximately 275 operative procedures per year, and published 119 articles in medical journals. Don’s pioneering use of biomaterials in craniofacial reconstruction greatly broadened the scope of his specialty. He was director of the Dental Research Institute (a UCLA Organized Research Unit) from 1982 to 1986. Don traveled and lectured extensively on reconstructive surgery; he always took his oboe along in case the opportunity arose to play. He was listed in both Who’s Who in Frontier Science and Technology and Who’s Who in Entertainment. In November 1997, six weeks before his sudden and unexpected death, Don performed Mozart’s Concerto for Oboe, K.314 with the New Valley Symphony.


Donald is survived by his wife, Rosemary D. Leake, M.D.; son John Leake, M.D.; daughters Catherine Leake, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Leake, Ph.D.; and two grandchildren. He leaves a rich legacy in the health professions and in classical music. He is truly missed by colleagues, family and friends.


Robert Lindemann