Leah Anne Zallman, MD, MPH, age 40, of Somerville passed away on Thursday, November 5, 2020. She was the beloved wife of Nadav Tanners and loving mother of Eli Zallman and Kai Tanners. She is also survived by her sister Shana Zallman, her niece Isa Zallman, her mother Marcia Bernbaum, and was preceded in death by her father Eric Zallman. She is also survived by her mother-in-law Dina Tanners and father-in-law, Paul Tanners, sister-in-law Timna Tanners (Jonathan Miller), brother-in-law Avi Tanners, and her nephews Jonah Smith, Zeke Smith, and nieces Talia Miller and Elizabeth Tanners. Her many cherished friends and admiring colleagues join her family in mourning.
Leah was an incredibly giving person who left everyone in her life feeling blessed, loved, and improved by their contact with her.
She devoted herself ceaselessly to her work, which included clinical care as well as research into social justice issues that she was passionate about, including immigration and social determinants of health. She was admired as a doctor, researcher, and leader by the entire institution where she worked. Her kindness and brilliant mind shone in every setting and interaction.
As devoted as she was to her work, she was even more devoted to her family and her ridiculously large and closely connected network of friends. She demonstrated levels of empathy and giving that most of us never thought possible before we knew her, and she made it look easy. She effortlessly expressed her love to her family and friends, she drew energy from and delighted in these relationships, and the world will be a dimmer place without her.
She was the best mommy in the world to Eli and Kai, and the best wife, sister, daughter, "Tia" or auntie, niece, colleague, granddaughter, "tesorito", and friend that any of us could've hoped for.
Leah Anne Zallman was born on Human Rights Day, December 10th, 1979, in Panama City, Panama, where her parents Marcy and Eric were working for USAID. She spent her early childhood years in Nicaragua, where she met "Tota," who would remain an important part of Leah's life, and Honduras before the family moved to Washington, D.C. When she was in middle school, the family moved to Nairobi, Kenya, for two years before returning to Washington, D.C. Leah attended Georgetown Day School, from which she graduated and was named a Presidential Scholar. She met her future husband, also a Presidential Scholar, on a bus going to the White House, and their romance began when they reconnected at Swarthmore College, which they both attended. Leah graduated from Swarthmore in 2001 with a degree in Biology and a concentration in Public Policy, and graduated from NYU School of Medicine in 2007, receiving accolades and awards recognizing her commitment to humanitarian causes. She completed her residency at Boston Medical Center and her General Internal Medicine Fellowship at Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance, and also received her Masters in Public Health from Harvard University. Following completion of her studies she joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School and stayed on at Cambridge Health Alliance.
She and Nadav moved to Somerville, Mass., got married in 2008, and welcomed Eli (2011) and Kai (2014). They had a full life in the Boston area, where they traveled to the Cape with family, New Hampshire and Maine with friends, and toured the sights of Boston with their kids. They cherished their family time together, even more so during the Covid-19 pandemic, during which time they created new traditions, including daily lunches together, evening neighborhood walks, and weekend hikes.
Leah's passion and dedication to social justice was infused in her from infancy by her parents. She lived the ideals she was raised with fully. She once wrote, "(my) passion arises from a deep belief that all humans have a right to health care, and that as a physician researcher, I have a role to play in elevating the voices of the most vulnerable." She took on that task with zest. She cared for immigrants in her clinical practice in East Cambridge, using her Spanish skills as well as her compassion and talent for listening. She co-led Cambridge Health Alliance's programming about engaging clinicians to care for our diverse populations. Leah reached out to policymakers about measuring and improving access not just to health care but to food, housing, and other determinants of health for these populations. And she published research widely in leading journals, including a pioneering study that showed that immigrants contributed more to the healthcare system than they took out of it. She was on the brink of fulfilling her dream of founding a Center for Immigrant Health Research that was to be announced later this month.
Family and friends will gather for an hour of private visitation on Saturday, November 7, 2020 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the Bigelow Chapel at Mt. Auburn Cemetery, 580 Mt. Auburn Street, Cambridge. A graveside service will follow at 1:00 p.m. In accordance with COVID-19 guidelines, in-person service attendance is limited to invitation only, but all are welcome to watch the live stream of the service. For those attending in person, please practice social distancing and face masks are required.
For those who wish to attend the service remotely, please activate the link provided below on Saturday, November 7, 2020, at 1:00 p.m.