This past spring, the Master in Law (ML) program hosted bestselling author Patrick Radden Keefe’s lecture, “The Opioid Crisis: Pain, Profits, and Regulatory Failures” based on his bestselling 2021 book, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty. The lecture and reception were dedicated to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia anesthesiologist, Dr. Ronald S. Litman ML’18, who passed away on April 21, 2021 at age 62 after a battle with acute myeloid leukemia.
Over 200 people, including Litman’s family, friends, colleagues, as well as alumni and many from the Philadelphia legal and medical communities attended and the recording of the lecture has been viewed over 1,000 times.
Honoring a Dedicated Student and Alum
Litman was a beloved member of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School community where he not only helped inform the ML Program as a content advisor but also excelled as a student and gave generously of his time and talents as an engaged and devoted alumnus.
“Of course Ron was so many wonderful things,” said Catharine Restrepo L’93, Executive Director of the ML program, in her opening remarks at the event, “but what impressed me most was his humility, and the joy and gratitude with which he lived every single moment. He never missed a chance to say thank you, and most especially to express how grateful he was that the Law School offered such a program, and that he was given the opportunity to participate, learning in our law school classrooms, engaging with great thinkers from the law and across many disciplines. He’d often stop by the Master in Law Suite, saying it was the best thing ever, and the most fun he’s ever had!”
Remembered as a giant in the field of pediatric anesthesia, Litman was an internationally known and respected medical educator, author, and clinician. He was an attending physician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He cared deeply about teaching, mentoring and inspiring others while also caring for countless patients. A passionate advocate for the safe administration of medicine, his lectures, articles, and books have influenced generations of anesthesiologists.
Wendell E. Pritchett, James S. Riepe Presidential Professor of Law and Education, who was Interim University President at the time, started the event with a welcome and tribute to Ron, praising him as an exemplary student — a favorite among faculty and fellow students alike whose enthusiasm sparked many great discussions and whose energy and excitement for learning moved all to do their very best, even helping to shape the contours of the ML Program.
Next, Theodore W. Ruger, Dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law, continued, noting that although he had the pleasure of teaching Ron, he felt that he learned far more from Ron than the other way around. To the happy surprise of many attendees, Ruger announced a scholarship in Litman’s name to the ML Program.
“On behalf of the Law School, we’re not going to stop honoring the memory of this incredible member of our community with this lecture,” said Ruger. “We’ve dedicated funds so that every year we will award a scholarship for an ML student under the Dr. Ronald Litman Scholarship. With this scholarship, we hope that we will bring applicants and students who demonstrate a commitment to focusing on the critical issues of the day working across fields such as healthcare, legal regulations, and patient safety, who demonstrate a lifelong love of learning in the great tradition of Dr. Ronald Litman.”
The scholarship will prioritize applicants from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where Litman practiced and mentored young physicians and will continue to build upon the partnerships he built.
The Opioid Crisis
Empire of Pain was among Ron’s favorite books according to his wife Daphne, “as much for its beautifully written prose as for its accurate and clear portrayal of the complex origins of, and where responsibility rests for the opioid crisis,” said Restrepo. Daphne devoted herself to helping the ML program make the event a resounding success according to Restrepo.
Keefe began the lecture by honoring Litman, lamenting that he did not have the pleasure of knowing him, but noting from the tributes that his was a life well-lived. He continued, sharing that he was humbled and honored to be speaking at an event offered in Litman’s name.
Keefe captivated the audience from the start, describing his interests in writing about things few people would have put together: drugs, legalization, Mexican drug cartels, and the role of the Sackler family in the opioid crisis, though their name had been previously associated with significant philanthropy. Keefe writes full-time for The New Yorker and decided to write this book upon realizing the significant roles played by the FDA, prescribing physicians, and the Sackler family in the opioid crisis that continues to grip this country.
Though he never practiced law, Keefe earned his JD at Yale along with Professor of Law Allison K. Hoffman, who served as the interrogator for the event.
After the event, family and friends gathered at a nearby reception and shared photos and stories from Litman’s life.
Restrepo thanked the many individuals at the Law School who helped plan the event and reception, noting that [t]his was a school wide effort, indeed, a labor of love by a community who so loved Ron.
Watch the 2022 Master in Law Lecture, “The Opioid Crisis: Pain, Profits, and Regulatory Failures”: