Dr. Lowell H. Steen

Dr. Lowell Steen walked among the "giants" of the medical world, his son says. From the sounds of it, Steen was one himself.

The Highland internist was chairman of the American Medical Association in the late 1970s and early 1980s, espousing the advantages of the U.S. health care system worldwide.

"He was our champion against socialized medicine, whether you agree with that or not," said his son, Dr. Lowell Steen Jr., a cardiologist with Loyola Medicine. "He went to all these countries. He went to northern Europe. He evaluated all these systems. He literally went around the world twice."

Steen died Saturday at his home in Highland from natural causes. He was 95.

Steen Jr. called his father the "foil" of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who the elder Steen would debate the merits of fee-for-service medicine.

Steen also worked with then-Indiana Gov. Otis Bowen in the 1970s to reform the state's medical malpractice laws, putting a cap on awards and setting up peer review panels to determine the merits of suits. Steen Jr. said his father's work in this area made the state a more attractive place for doctors to practice in.

Steen also served as president of the Indiana Medical Association and director of the World Medical Association.

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"When I was a kid, it seemed like he was in the paper all the time," Steen Jr. said. "I kind of got immune to it."

Steen was born Nov. 27, 1923 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to the Rev. Joseph and Marie Steen, growing up on a dairy farm. The family also lived in Terre Haute for a time before moving to East Chicago during Steen's junior year of high school.

He attended Indiana University for undergraduate education and then medical school. He began practicing in 1952 and helped found the Whiting Clinic in Hammond. In 1984, he started his own practice on Ridge Road in Highland, where he stayed until his retirement in 1998.

He also served in the Army Medical Corps and was on staff at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and Community Hospital in Munster.

"He was very gregarious, and he was kind of a larger-than-life kind of character," Steen Jr. said, calling his dad a "renaissance man" who also loved to cook, do woodworking and paint with watercolors. "He just filled a room. He had story after story."

Steen is also survived by his wife, four daughters and four grandchildren. A visitation is scheduled for 3-7 p.m. Friday at Burns Funeral Home, 10101 Broadway in Crown Point. The funeral is set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Highland, 8727 Delaware St.


Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.