Les was born September 8, 1930 in Frankfort, KY, the only child of Lester And Pearl Bryant.
With a curious mind, keen intellect and deep sense of social responsibility, he pursued a career in medicine. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati Medical School, Les became a thoracic surgeon, honing his skills when he studied with pioneering heart surgeons Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley in Houston in the late 1950s. Les was among the first group of physicians joining the University of Kentucky Medical School in Lexington in the 1960s, developing his teaching skills along with surgery. While there, he began a lifelong relationship with the Veterans Administration Health System. His work in tobacco research advanced our understanding of the impact of smoking on health. In 1968, Les was invited to Hong Kong to introduce open-heart surgery to Southeast Asia, then an unserved area of the world. He was often cited in the daily newspapers as 'famous hole-in-heart surgeon', always accompanied by a photograph taken of him as he disembarked after the 30-day voyage from the US during which he had taken the opportunity to grow a beard. After that, Les vowed never to be seen again without a clean shave.
Les joined the LSU Health System in New Orleans in the mid-70s, heartily embracing chicory coffee, crawfish boil and muffulettas. He and his family enjoyed learning to sail on Lake Ponchartrain. A stint as Chair of the Dept of Surgery at East Tennessee State University Medical Center in Johnson City, TN was followed by appointment to Dean of the Medical School at Marshall University in Huntington, WV. He always remarked upon and carried with him the kindness of the folks in WV. In 1989, Les joined the University of Missouri-Columbia, as Dean of the School of Medicine. In 1993, he was also named Chief Executive Officer of University Hospitals and Clinics, In 1998, he was appointed interim Vice-Chancellor for Medical Sciences and CEO of the Missouri University Health System. During his tenure at Mizzou, he emphasized the mission of providing health care to rural Missouri. He initiated the Missouri Telemedicine Network and the Rural Medical Scholars Program (Bryant Scholars). As Dean and CEO, he continued to operate one day a week to maintain his surgical skills at the Truman Veterans Hospital.
He and Linda retired to Jonesborough, TN in 2000. In retirement, Les was a generous supporter of local CASA and animal welfare programs. Throughout his career, he researched and wrote and never ceased to find an interest in everything. He enjoyed good food, good music and dancing. Les had a deep love for all living creatures, saving thousands of human lives, but he was never too busy to nurse an injured bird or neighborhood pet or even advise neighbors who inquired about personal health issues. He shared his genuine interest and generosity with family and friends and many beloved pets throughout his life.
Les was preceded in death by his parents Les and Pearl, his son Lance and stepdaughter Wynne.
He is survived by his loving wife Linda, daughter Leslie, stepson Todd, and stepdaughter Kendall, her husband Bart and Les's beloved grandson Nash, and much-loved dogs Zoey, Jessie and his special Charley Boy. Family and friends, colleagues and patients all over the world, waitresses and handymen alike, mourn his loss and cherish the gift that was Lester Bryant.
A private family ceremony has taken place. Donations to your local animal welfare associations are welcomed.
Condolences may be sent to the Bryant family online at www.dillow-taylor.com.
Dillow-Taylor Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Jonesborough, TN 423-753-3821