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Dr. Ronald Litman ML’18 left an incredible legacy in his 62 years, becoming a renowned expert on the safe administration of medicine.
Photo: Charles Shan Cerrone

Dr. Ronald S. Litman, Globally Recognized Pediatric Anesthesiologist and Tireless Champion of Penn Law’s Master in Law Program


r. Ronald S. Litman ML’18, an internationally recognized leader in pediatric anesthesiology at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and staunch supporter of the Law School’s Master in Law program, passed away on April 21 after a short illness. He was 62.

A passionate advocate for the safe administration of medicine, Dr. Litman had been an attending anesthes­iologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for twenty years and a Professor of Anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine for the last thirteen years.

Noting his loss to the medical community and to Penn, Dr. Charles Dean Kurth, Anesthesiologist-in-Chief at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in a statement: “We will miss Ron’s quick wit, keen eye, willingness to help at any moment, incredible knowledge and skill in pediatric anesthesia … Ron will be remembered as a giant in the field of pediatric anesthesia… . He had a gift for inquiry and scholarship and was amazingly productive. He used these gifts to positively influence the clinical care of children undergoing anesthesia, surgery, and pain management around the world.”

Ever the seeker of knowledge, in 2009 Dr. Litman acted on his interest in the law and approached Ted Ruger, before he became Dean, about sitting in on his class in Health Law. Ruger told him to take it for credit in case he wanted to pursue more legal education in the future.

This turned out to be prescient advice when, in 2014, the Law School created the Master in Law program, offering it to Penn-affiliated professionals including physicians, engineers, administrators, financial analysts and others. Litman became the equivalent of an early adopter.

The ML program gives professionals a solid grounding in the law, which increasingly intersects with virtually all disciplines. Through the program they gain a newfound perspective on their fields and bring that clarity to their jobs.

Dr. Litman, who took classes at night, embraced his course of study immediately. “There was lot of reading, but it was so enjoyable that I couldn’t wait to come home and read the assignments,” Litman said in an article published on the Law School website in 2019. “I had to learn a lot of legal terms, the kind that you normally learn in your first year of law school. All of it was new to me and it was a great challenge, but it was really enjoyable.”

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Ron Litman,” said Ruger, Dean & Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. “He was my first-ever MD student at the Law School. Well-liked by everyone, you could feel Ron’s contagious enthusiasm. In every sense of the word, he was one of the original incubators of our Master in Law program, advising me on the physician perspective on the law. He genuinely loved his legal studies, and in the interdisciplinary spirit of Penn Law, quickly began to apply what he learned to the field of medicine.”

Dr. Litman came to his law studies with substantial medical credentials. He was the Chair of the Food and Drug Administration’s Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee, which is responsible for reviewing and evaluating the safety and effectiveness of drugs used in anesthesiology and surgery. The Committee also examines issues related to opioid use and abuse. In addition, he served as the Medical Director of the Malignant Hyperthermia Association of the United States hotline and as Medical Director of the Institute for Safe Medication Practice.

According to colleagues, Dr. Litman shaped the subspecialty of pediatric anesthesiology through his voluminous research and publications. He authored and edited a textbook on the basics of pediatric anes­thes­i­ology that is used around the world and applied his expertise to help advance practice guidelines and policies to better safeguard against medication errors, help ensure safe opioid use and regulation, and ensure safe administration of sedation by non-anesthesiologist providers.

Born in New York City on October 21, 1958, Litman earned a degree in Biology from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1980 and a DO from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1985. He did his pediatric internship at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, his pediatric residency at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and his anesthesiology residency at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. Dr. Litman worked at the University of Rochester Medical Center before coming to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he had been a pediatric anesthesia fellow in 1990–91. Dr. Litman earned a Master in Law from Penn Law in 2018.

In an interview with the Penn Law Journal that year, Dr. Litman, a longtime medical malpractice witness in legal cases, said his interest in medication safety grew after he learned about a case where a child died from receiving the wrong drug. This and his natural inquisitiveness spurred him to enter the Master in Law program, during which, to his surprise, he discovered that there were virtually no laws to protect patients from and offer redress for such mistakes.

Catharine Restrepo L’93, Executive Director of the Master in Law program, said Dr. Litman played a seminal role in its development. “The ML degree was taking shape, benefiting from Ron’s sage advice along the way, when Ron, ever practical and sensible, shared a great idea: ‘Why not build this for doctors, too?’ His idea gained traction immediately and ultimately informed much of what the degree looks like today which is one that works well for students and busy doctors like Ron, as well as many others.”

Restrepo added, “He will always hold a special place at the Law School and will forever be a part of the ML program. He was both our champion and he embodied the spirit of the program as he never stopped learning, despite being at the pinnacle of an already magnificent career.”

The Germantown Cricket Club also played a special role in his life. It is where he became an accomplished squash player and met his wife, Daphne Klausner CGS’88, G’93, now the Senior Vice President of Senior Markets at Independence Blue Cross. The couple traveled the world together, enjoyed Broadway shows, and searched for the best New York pizza and bagels.

Jim McKenzie L’86, W’86 and Mimi Minehan McKenzie L’86 lived next door to Dr. Litman for more than a decade. They wrote in an email message: “Although we were aware of Ron’s global reputation in pediatric anesthesiology, to us he was a kindhearted neighbor … His easygoing manner, old jeans and flip flops masked a deep intellectual curiosity we only glimpsed by the number of books he read at the same time … We wish we could have gone back to the Law School to be in class with Ron.”

In addition to his wife, Ron is survived by his twin sons Alan and Cory Litman. Alan is starting law school at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall and Cory is coaching squash at City Squash in the Bronx, a not-for-profit enrichment program for financially disadvantaged children which focuses on academics and personal development. Also surviving him are stepchildren Ethan and Becca Genyk, and his parents, Arthur and Barbara Litman.