From Passion to Path


Stephen Heartwell


Alumnus Honors Mentor With Scholarship Gift

Fresh out of the Peace Corps, Stephen Heartwell (EPI MPH ’68/PHD ’72) knew that he wanted to be in the field of public health. But it wasn’t until he attended Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine that his passion became a path. The person he credits most with showing him the way was Dr. Dorothy LeBlanc, a 27-year member of the epidemiology faculty.

“I took a course in field epidemiology from Dr. LeBlanc,” recalled Heartwell. “I’ll never forget her saying, ‘The most important things you need to conduct a field study are three sharpened number-two lead pencils.’ She was absolutely right!”

According to Heartwell, LeBlanc was one of many faculty who brought strong experience to the classroom, practical as well as didactic. “She cared about her students, gave unselfishly of herself, and could communicate her field experience to her students.”

After getting his doctorate, Heartwell taught at Tulane and then joined the faculty at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, where he continued his focus on community-based women’s health and family planning. Recently, he came out of retirement to take on his current role as deputy director of domestic programs at the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation.

Honoring a Mentor

“All of us have these major forks in the road,” said Heartwell. “Dr. LeBlanc convinced me that serving people through public health was a worthwhile way to spend the rest of my life. I’ve done that now for forty plus years, and I’d like to give something back.”

In their will, Heartwell and his wife have designated Tulane to receive a portion of their estate to support the Dorothy R. LeBlanc Memorial Scholarship Fund. Since 1986, this endowed fund has supported scholarships for graduate students in epidemiologic research. “Scholarships are critical,” said Heartwell. “Without them, I and many of my colleagues wouldn’t have had a chance at a graduate education.”

Another inspiration has been the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation’s own scholarship program. “I’ve been working with a family that came to the U.S. after twenty years in a refugee camp,” he said. “Their daughter recently received a college scholarship from our foundation. Imagine the rare perspective she’ll bring to enrich her profession and touch people’s lives.”

Supporting Scholarships at SPHTM

Scholarships help Tulane attract and retain the best and brightest students. To support endowed scholarships at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, you can contribute to a previously endowed scholarship. Many alumni have also established their own fund and then add to it over the years, even including it in estate plans.

If you are interested in creating or contributing to a scholarship or estate planning, please contact Tatine Maginnis Frater – 504-314-7331,


About Tulane University SPHTM

Tulane's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine is the oldest school of public health in the country and the only American school of tropical medicine. Our mission is to advance public health knowledge, promote health and well-being, and prevent disease, disability, and premature mortality. This is accomplished through academic excellence in education of public health professionals, rigorous scientific research of public health problems, creative partnerships to advance the practice of public health, and innovative service to the local, national, and international public health community.
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