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Graham Jeffries, MD, founding chair of the Department of Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine, dies at 94

Penn State College of Medicine mourns the loss of Graham Jeffries, MD, founding chair of the Department of Medicine and former professor emeritus of medicine, who died on Monday, July 10. He was 94.

Jeffries played an integral role in the College of Medicine’s history. He was one of the College’s first academic faculty members when he was invited to Hershey in 1969 to serve as the founding chair of the Department of Medicine, a role he filled for nearly 20 years until stepping down in 1988. Over the course of his tenure with the College and health system, Jeffries helped grow its research programs and expand its academic footprint. Jeffries became an emeritus professor in 2001, received an Honorary Alumni Award from the Penn State Alumni Association in 2012, and was honored for 50 years of service to Penn State Health and the College of Medicine in 2019. After retiring from his roles at the College, he remained a practicing gastroenterologist at Hershey Medical Center until May 2019.

“His expertise and acumen solidified his reputation as an impactful educator, committed mentor and trusted physician who was universally respected by students, colleagues and patients,” said Kevin Black, MD, interim dean of the College of Medicine. “We offer our deepest condolences to everyone who knew him.”

Born in Australia to a mother who was a nurse and a father who was beekeeper, he was raised in New Zealand, where he graduated from Otago Medical School in 1952. He completed a doctorate and medical residency as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England before moving to New York in 1958. Jeffries served on the faculty at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical College (now NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center), where he also completed fellowship training in gastroenterology, prior to joining the College of Medicine.

Jeffries was a devoted educator and clinician as well as a strong advocate of global health education. During a sabbatical leave in the 1980s, he spent time in India and Zimbabwe, and for the next 10 years he dedicated two months each year to working with senior medical students in the highlands of Kenya. He was later a passionate supporter of the Global Health Scholars Program at the College, which offers an international experience for medical students.

In addition to his contributions as an educator and clinician, Dr. Jeffries was among the College’s strongest philanthropic supporters. The legacy of generosity he and his late wife, Elizabeth, left to the College of Medicine was primarily focused on supporting students through scholarships and global health experiences and advancing education and faculty support through professorships and lectureships. The Jeffries Family International Health Scholarship stands as the largest source of support for students traveling through the Global Health Scholars Program, providing more than $50,000 in financial assistance each year. In 2022-2033, the fund supported 50 students. Dr. Jeffries also established an educational equity scholarship in 2020, and in 2021, he created the College of Medicine’s first scholarship specifically for physician assistant students.

The memorial service for Jeffries will be Saturday, Aug. 26 at 2 p.m. at Derry Presbyterian Church, 248 E. Derry Road, Hershey. Memorial contributions can be made to support the Jeffries Family International Health Scholarship online at

See Jeffries’ full obituary here.

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