Dr. Rice Leach

Obituary of Dr. Rice Cowan Leach

Dr. Rice Cowan Leach, of Frankfort, and the Commissioner of Health of the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, died Friday, April 1, 2016, at the Hospice Care Center at St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington following a battle with cancer. He was 75. Dr. Leach was born April 10, 1940, in Lexington, to the late George Brown Leach and Frances Scott Leach. He was raised in Louisville and Lexington before graduating from Amherst College in Massachusetts. He received his medical degree from the University of Kentucky in 1966, and then entered a rotating internship as an officer of the United States Public Health Service where he remained on active duty until 1993. Dr. Leach went on to obtain a Master of Health Services Administration degree from the Harvard School of Public Health. During his Public Health Service career, he was medical director of hospital staffs, hospital commander, community health physician, director of a multi-state program in the Indian Health Service and served as chief of staff to the U.S. Surgeon General. He had international health experience in Guatemala, Bolivia and Panama and was a consultant to the Guam Memorial Hospital. Dr. Leach served as Kentucky’s Commissioner of Public Health from 1992 until 2004, during which time he worked to implement several Public Health initiatives ordered by the Kentucky General Assembly. He chaired the Attorney General’s Task Force on Controlled Substance Abuse and participated in emergency responses and environmental cleanup activities. From 2004 until 2010, he was medical director of the Primary Care Center of the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. He was a professor and preventive residency program associate director at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health’s Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health until becoming Lexington’s Commissioner of Health in March 2011. Two of Dr. Leach’s most successful projects at Lexington’s health department were helping lead it to national accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation and the launching of the city’s first needle-exchange program. In March 2016, he was named the 2016 Public Health Hero Award winner for Lexington, given in honor of his lifetime of service to Lexington and the United States. The award was renamed the Dr. Rice C. Leach Public Health Hero Award so future generations can know what a true Public Health superhero is. A natural storyteller, Dr. Leach enjoyed giving interviews to media outlets, talking with students or mentoring those interested in Public Health. He often stressed the need for teamwork, leading him to remind people of his oft-quoted motto: “There’s no such thing as your side of the canoe is leaking.” Dr. Leach enjoyed music and dancing, good food, and, despite his Public Health ties, the occasional good cigar. He loved to laugh and tried to find the humor in any situation, even during his battle with cancer, which he refused to call a fight. Instead, he preferred to call it “arm wrestling,” saying, “A fight is something you get into thinking you have a chance to win.” Dr. Leach is survived by his wife of 50 years, Mireille, whom he met in Guatemala. He is also survived by two sons, George, of Louisville, and John, of Frankfort; two grandchildren, Nicolas Cowan Whitcomb and Alyse Marie Whitcomb; and a brother, George Brown Leach, Jr. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Mary, who died of cancer in 2007. The Mass of Christian Burial will take place in the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Frankfort at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, with visitation preceding at 10:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Dr. Leach's memory are suggested to the Good Shepherd Catholic Church, 72 Shepherd Way, Frankfort, KY 40601.
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Tuesday
5
April

Visitation

10:30 am - 1:30 pm
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Good Shepherd Catholic Church
72 Shepherd Way
Frankfort, Kentucky, United States
Tuesday
5
April

Mass of Christian Burial

1:30 pm
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Good Shepherd Catholic Church
72 Shepherd Way
Frankfort, Kentucky, United States
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