Leon Denton Prockop, M.D.
was born March 28, 1934, in Palmerton, PA. He re-joined his parents, John and Sophie Prockop June 28, 2018. Leon grew up in Aquashicola, PA, exploring the wonders of Little Gap and the roaring waters of Wild Creek, beginning a lifetime of adventure, curiosity, and dedication to family, friends, patients, and students.
Leon's early life was filled with love and laughter, with hours spent pestering his older brother Darwin, playing basketball for the Palmerton Blue Bombers, graduating with the Class of '51. He left for Princeton University where he met his lifelong friends John Perkins, Paul Perreten, and Ray Fitzsimmons. After Princeton, Leon attended University of Pennsylvania College of Medicine, completed his residency at Columbia, and began his career as an assistant Professor of Medicine in neurology at Penn, choosing to teach medical students and residents while also engaging in research and patient care.
Making a leap of faith, Leon moved his family to Tampa in 1973 where he became a professor at the newly opened University of South Florida College of Medicine. Several years later, he was named the founding Chair of the USF Department of Neurology, and began an academic department which has grown into a world-renowned center for research, academics, and patient care. He required perfection of those he taught and was proud that he played a part in sending hundreds, if not thousands, of physicians out into the world to provide compassionate care to patients suffering from debilitating diseases. Despite being a demanding teacher, he was so pleased to be elected by the medical students as the Professor of the Year on many occasions.
During his many years as a neurologist he had the privilege of caring for many patients and developed a special interest in the area of Neurotoxicology. He became known both in the USA and internationally as one of the pioneers in the discipline of neurotoxicology. He was asked to lecture all over the world, generating interest in environmental/toxicological impacts upon the brain and nervous system. He also co-founded the American Society of Neuro-imaging, which has played a role in developing new and innovative techniques for recognizing and diagnosing neurologic diseases. His professional awards, accomplishments and accolades are too many to mention. He certainly lived up to the nickname "Lion" given to him by his college roommates.
Leon was the son of Ukrainian immigrants who instilled a love for family. As a result, Leon dedicated himself to helping the people of the old country by conducting medical missions and educating the physicians and future physicians of Ukraine. He is considered a hero there by physicians and patients alike for many donations of medical supplies, equipment, and knowledge. He brought technology which they would not have otherwise seen for decades and spent his time teaching how to use the equipment and interpret results in order to help patients there as he did here in Tampa. He did have a few odd ideas about Ukraine, such as shipping a pizza oven so that they could experience the delight of having pizza delivery. His wife swiftly nixed that idea, but the CT scanner was delivered to the Children's Hospital as promised.
Having boundless energy, Leon participated in triathlons, the last of which he "ran" with his trainer Whit Lasseter. He was thrilled to be first at the finish line, immediately surrounded by the Bucs cheerleaders, a team he had cheered since their inaugural season.
At the end, Leon suffered from dementia, a cruel disease. His last days were made happy and comfortable by the staff at The Estates at Hyde Park, his private caregiver, Christine, the Hospice Gold Team, Ellen Buckley, and his personal trainers Whit and Karen. To the end, Leon was training for his next triathlon, in which he is now competing while being cheered on by those who predeceased him.
Left to cherish their memories of good times with Leon are people he loved including brother, Darwin; wife, Frances; children, Jennifer, Joannah, Julie (Steve Diekmann), Jonathon Jamieson, and Sofia; his Ukrainian princess named for his mother; stepson, Michael Fernandez; grandchildren, Lydia Ellsworth, Carmen Baynes, and Matthew and Hope Diekmann, as well as many friends, colleagues, and extended family members.
A Celebration of Leon's Life will be held at 2 pm July 14, 2018, at Blount and Curry Funeral Home, 605 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa. Interment will take place in Palmerton, PA, in September 2018. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider donating to the Leon D. Prockop Visiting Professorship Fund at the USF Department of Neurology. The fund will provide medical students and residents in neurology the opportunity to interact with, and learn from, top leaders in the field of neurology, continuing Leon's legacy of educating physicians of the future.
- USF Health-Department of Neurology
- Celebration of Life Saturday, July 14, 2018
- Reception to follow