Dr. Lowell Goldsmith: A Life of Service

Dr. Lowell Goldsmith: A Life of Service

Dr. Lowell A. Goldsmith ’02M (MPH)

Lowell A. Goldsmith ’02M (MPH) grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., one of three children. His father was a dentist whose office was in the front room of the family home. From an early age, Dr. Goldsmith was exposed to patient care. He saw his father treating people, developing x-rays, and doing all it takes to be a skilled, compassionate physician. Dr. Goldsmith was captivated by the science of medical care.

Because he was a self-proclaimed “math nerd,” Dr. Goldsmith went to an engineering-focused high school in New York City. “That got engineering out of my system,” he says, with a lilt in his voice. “It was around that time that I discovered that medicine had both humanistic and scientific elements. This captivated me, and would ultimately serve a lifelong professional calling.”

Drawn to dermatology

Dr. Goldsmith earned his undergraduate degree at Columbia College and his medical degree at SUNY Downstate College in Medicine (Brooklyn), both in the New York City area. “When I was applying for internships after medical school, Rochester was #1 on my list,” he says. “I had heard about it and knew of its great reputation from my medical school days.” With a wish to pursue an internship here, Dr. Goldsmith and his father drove to Rochester for an interview. But, he says, “The school didn’t accept me!” Thus began a search for his next step.

“I knew I wanted to get back to Rochester someday,” Dr. Goldsmith adds. When he was applying for his residency in dermatology, Rochester didn’t have a program, so there was no reason to have the school on his list. Then, when he finished his residency and training at Harvard, he began looking for a full-time faculty position. But still, Rochester didn’t have a dermatology program.

Dr. Goldsmith was on faculty at Duke when he learned that Rochester was getting ready to launch a dermatology program. “I thought, ‘at long last,’” he recalls. “By that time, I’d looked at other dermatology programs around the country but Rochester still had a lot of appeal to me.” Dr. Goldsmith did come, and he started the program here. “It was a blank slate, and something I could build. That was very exciting to me.”

Dr. Goldsmith became drawn to dermatology by way of genetics in college. “Through my interest in and study of genetics, I had learned about the vast number of genetic conditions that affected the skin, hair, and nails, and decided that’s where I wanted to focus—that I could have a role unravelling some of the mysteries and medical questions involved with them.” And so he did.

The importance of endowments

Dr. Goldsmith would remain at Rochester for 21 years, serving in various roles. As the first James H. Sterner Chair in Dermatology, he knew first-hand the difference that an endowed professorship could make on someone’s career. “It was at that point that I tucked away the knowledge that endowed professorships were vital to the medical school and the profession, and that someday I wanted to establish one.”

That thought was reinforced over the years. For instance, when Dr. Goldsmith was head of dermatology, Donald and Margaret Ruch endowed a lectureship in dermatology. “That endowment has made many scientific lectures possible, ones that have drawn the best in dermatology to come to Rochester and partake in scholarly endeavors,” he says. “It helped put our department on the dermatology map.”

Throughout the years, Dr. Goldsmith and his wife, Carol, have committed various commitments to the University. A few years ago, they started thinking that it was the right time to make a serious commitment to a professorship.

“During my time as chair of dermatology and, later, as dean of the medical school, it was clear how endowed professorships permanently acknowledged professional excellence,” he adds. “They made it possible for the University of Rochester to stay at the forefront of research, education, and patient care.”

Medical innovation and entrepreneurship

Goldsmith stayed at the forefront of all of this during his career. He would later be a cofounder of Visual DX, a company that sprung from medical innovations at the University along with technological insights at Kodak. Today, the company has more than 50 employees.

“I’m so pleased that this company has thrived and has brought together computer engineers and other scientists to contribute to the entrepreneurial spirit that is so prevalent in the Rochester area,” says Dr. Goldsmith. “It is a clear example of how the University has an important role in the initiation of new business.”

Celebrating a life of service

Dr. Goldsmith reflects on the events in August 2019—that’s when the University hosted a symposium in his name and, separately, presented him and Carol with medallions to honor their service.

“It was a wonderful experience. People from around the country participated in one way or another, including many of my past teachers, students, and colleagues, most of whom are now heads of departments or in other leadership positions. My family was there, too, including my children and their spouses, even my brother and sister and their spouses. It was a celebratory occasion that I will never forget.”

Dr. Goldsmith adds how much it meant to him that President Sarah Mangelsdorf was there, too. She presented him and Carol with engraved commemorative professorship medallions. It was the first professorship event Mangelsdorf participated in as president of the University.

Looking back

“Rochester gave me the opportunities to do more than I ever thought possible,” he adds. “I thought I’d come, start a program, and take care of patients. I did all that, and more. I also had the incredible opportunity to chair the dermatology department and serve as dean of the medical school. The icing on the cake was that I also earned a master’s in public health here in 2002,” says Dr. Goldsmith. “Rochester is truly a place without limits.”

Today, the Goldsmiths live in Durham, NC. “I’ve come rather full circle,” he adds. “I spent eight years at Duke and 17 years at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Today, I’m an emeritus professor at Chapel Hill, as well as at Rochester. With all of this, plus our two adult children who are pursuing professional careers, life is full and continually exciting.”

Read more about the Goldsmith’s professorship gift here.

The Goldsmiths are founding members of the Wilson Society, which honors those who have included the University of Rochester in their philanthropic planning. To learn more, visit Rochester.edu/giving/wilson-society. For more on URMC’s Department of Dermatology, visit urmc.rochester.edu/dermatology.

Kristine Thompson, September 2019