Dr. Clifton R. "Clif" Cleaveland

The Kiwanis Club of Chattanooga on Tuesday will honor Dr. Clif Cleaveland with its 2019 Distinguished Service Award.

Cleaveland, 83, practiced internal medicine in Chattanooga for 33 years and became a teacher and writer after retirement.

"Dr. Cleaveland is clearly deserving of the Distinguished Service Award," Larry Stone, award committee chair for the Kiwanis Club, said in a statement. "He has devoted nearly 50 years to the wellbeing of the people of Chattanooga, in both professional and volunteer capacities. His life's work exemplifies the legacy of service this award is meant to recognize."

The public ceremony honoring Cleaveland will take place at noon via Zoom, as a result of the ongoing pandemic. The club has given the award since 1922 in recognition of outstanding community service and leadership.

Cleaveland is a former Rhodes Scholar and past president of the American College of Physicians. Last year he received the Times Free Press Champions of Health Care Lifetime Achievement Award.

"I encountered some of the most incredible people, who were pushing uphill against terrible disabilities or bad cancers," Cleaveland told the Times Free Press at that time. "These patients taught me about courage and steadfastness. I saw people who had bucked tough odds all of their lives. I saw some of the most honorable aspects of human character."

In recent years, Cleaveland authored a weekly column, "To Your Health," published in the Times Free Press, about medical trends, health policy and other topics gleaned from his wide experience and readings.

Until recently, he taught undergraduate classes at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, primarily to students in the Honors College. He is one of the founders of the Tennessee Literature and Medicine Seminar, an annual retreat designed to help physicians connect to the humanities.

"Dr. Cleaveland, more than any other person I have ever known, is the true Renaissance Man," Verbie Prevost, professor emeritus of American literature at UTC, told the Times Free Press last year. "While medicine has always been first with him, it is always connected to all the other things in life that he also values — literature, art and music chief among them."

The son of a Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. salesman, Cleaveland was born in LaGrange, Georgia, a textile town about 30 miles north of Columbus. Later, he attended high school in South Carolina after his father took a job there.

He attended Duke University and the University of Oxford in England and finished his medical degree at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

After finishing his medical training, Cleaveland spent two years in military service at Fort Knox, Kentucky, tending to sick and wounded service people flown in from the war theater in Vietnam.

After his military service was done, Cleaveland was recruited to Chattanooga by some of his medical school friends who had set up practice here. Throughout his medical career, Cleaveland said, he tried to treat those entrusted into his care as people first and patients second.

"It's the difference in saying 'let's go see the diabetic in (room) 409,' vs. saying, 'let's go see the man in 409 who happens to have diabetes," he told the Times Free Press.