A pediatrician who has served generations of people in one San Diego community was honored with a letter from President Barack Obama as he retired Monday.
“You’re not from Southeast if you don’t know Dr. Kelley,” one patient told NBC 7 at the celebration for Dr. Leon Kelley who practiced medicine in the same community for 47 years.
Patient Larry Milton said Kelley has been his doctor since he was 11 years old. Now at 62, Milton said he described the 77-year-old pediatrician as an angel who has been a support to his family and the community for decades.
“He has done so many things and has inspired so many people that it’s amazing,” Milton said.
Among his accomplishments, Kelley launched a process for sickle cell anemia testing in southeast San Diego which colleagues credit with saving thousands of lives.
He often saw patients seven days a week, sometimes without pay and treated area families for decades.
“I have grandparents who bring their grandchildren – the grandparents were my patients,” he said.
At his retirement party, someone read a personal letter to Kelley from President Barack Obama, thanking him for his years of service and touching thousands of lives. Kelley said it's a momento he will cherish.
Kelley is retiring because Children’s Primary Medical Group has an age limit for their doctors – a policy the doctor doesn’t dispute.
He’ll still be involved with CPMG but in a new role as mentor or advisor.
“My goal is to always have something here to be present in this community,” Kelley said.