Lawrence and Rita Chessin Establish Professorship in Infectious Diseases

Apr. 13, 2015
Lawrence N. and Rita R. Chessin

Lawrence N. and Rita R. Chessin, whose ties with the University of Rochester date back to 1954, have committed $1.5 million to support an endowed professorship in infectious diseases at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). Lawrence Chessin, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and clinical professor of medicine at the School of Medicine and Dentistry (SMD), received his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University in 1958 and has been actively involved in University life ever since.

“Dr. Chessin has been a part of the Infectious Diseases Division since I was a fellow here more than 30 years ago,” said John J. Treanor, M.D., chief of infectious diseases at UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial Hospital and professor of Medicine at SMD. “During that time he has brought incredible talent and an unbelievable dedication to infectious disease treatment, education and research in Rochester. He is a huge asset to our community and it is very gratifying that he did this. We are extremely appreciative of his support.”

The Lawrence N. Chessin, M.D. ’58 and Rita R. Chessin Professorship in Infectious Diseases will be held by the division chief of infectious diseases.

“We have a long legacy of successful infectious disease research at the University, contributing to the development of vaccines for cancer, bird flu and meningitis, testing new vaccine strategies for HIV and creating programs to prevent costly health care-associated infections like C. diff,” said Mark B. Taubman, M.D., CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center and UR Medicine and dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. “The Chessins’ generosity will allow this important work to continue by supporting the next generation of infectious disease researchers at the Medical Center.”

Lawrence Chessin, who served as chief of infectious diseases at Genesee Hospital until it closed in the late 1990s, says his undergraduate professors were significant influences on his life and career path. He credits his thinking as a physician and scientist to the close relationships he developed with the faculty. He and Rita, who met during Lawrence’s junior year, spent many Saturday nights babysitting for his professors’ children. Later on in his career, Lawrence had the privilege of providing medical care to several of his former professors.  

“The time I spent at the University was a treasured period in my life: I met my wife, received an education that was crème de la crème and worked with wonderful faculty,” said Chessin. “The University helped make me the man I am today and continues to be an important part of my life. I want to give back to the place that launched me and where so many of my passions intersect.” 

Chessin has worked with University medical students since 1968, taking them on infectious disease rounds at Genesee and holding tutorials in his office. Even in retirement he is actively involved in teaching and educational programs at SMD and through his role as medical director for continuing medical education at the Rochester Academy of Medicine. He considers it an honor to work with students.

According to Treanor, Chessin still attends rounds – a weekly meeting of experts from all area hospitals to discuss clinical cases and new research in infectious diseases.

“Dr. Chessin is one of the most reliable attendees and always has been,” said Treanor. “He is a great guy to talk to; he is very knowledgeable and has a lot of experience to share.”

A member of the School of Medicine and Dentistry’s National Council, the top volunteer advisory group for the school, Chessin provides insights on the medical curriculum and plans for the school’s future.

After graduating from Rochester, Chessin received his medical degree from the New York University School of Medicine. He conducted research at the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases for several years before entering clinical practice at URMC.

Lawrence and Rita, a retired interior designer, have been married for more than 55 years. They reside in Rochester and have a son, Daniel Chessin, and a daughter, Margery (Chessin) Pizitz. They are charter members of the George Eastman Circle, the University’s leadership annual giving society.