Farewell message to my SOM family

It is with both excitement and trepidation that I embark upon my journey of retirement after four wonderful decades with the University of Louisville and the School of Medicine. When I was asked to write a farewell message to my beloved “work family”, I eagerly agreed, because it gave me the opportunity to reflect upon memories, milestones, and points of pride.

As I look back on my career path, it followed four phases of service and leadership: ten years as an ENT clinician and clinician-educator; ten years as ENT clinical and academic leader; ten years as student affairs dean; and my final ten years as dean.

I was recruited in 1983 to UofL as an assistant professor of Otolaryngology by Dr. Serge Martinez, who had also been recruited a few years earlier by Dr. Hiram Polk to build ENT, a division of the department of surgery. Serge was one of my attendings and mentors in Nebraska during my ENT residency and specifically recruited me to build pediatric ENT, my area of interest and passion. At the same time, my husband, Brian was finishing his general surgery residency and exploring cardiac surgery residencies. Under Dr. Laman Gray’s leadership, Louisville was building an innovative Cardiovascular Surgery program, launching a transplant program, and greatly expanding the cardiovascular service line at Jewish Hospital. We essentially were recruited to Louisville as a “couple” with the idea we would be here three years and then return to Nebraska, where we had both been offered faculty positions and a chance to return home. My, how plans changed! We have been in Louisville ever since, blooming professionally where we were planted and raising our daughters here. Louisville is a special city.

Over the next ten years as a clinician, I helped to expand pediatric ENT and developed a passion for becoming an educational leader through such roles as clerkship director, admissions committee, and curriculum committee, as well as becoming a clinical leader through roles that included chief of the ENT service line at Children’s Hospital and president of Children’s Hospital Medical Staff. 

My second inflection point came when Serge Martinez left Louisville and Dr. Polk appointed me as division director of ENT. I will always be grateful for his mentorship and guidance over the next several years. We continued to grow and strengthen ENT and one of my points of pride was the recruitment of Dr. Jeff Bumpous, a brilliant head and neck surgeon and a highly effective academic leader, who I would go on several years later to pass the baton to as ENT Chair and then another several years later to pass the baton to as interim dean.

Phase three of development came with my appointment as student affairs dean in 2001.  I had just completed my MBA and wanted to pursue a broader leadership role across the institution. The student affairs dean position came open and it seemed like it would be a “dream job” because it married my passions for business and student engagement with my new goal of broader leadership. I applied for the position and was honored to be selected. And dream job it was! I had the opportunity to actively engage with students daily. We developed a student leadership program, strengthened our student support services, launched the advisory dean program, created the medical student distinction tracks, and developed a culture that truly valued students. I loved this position and even after ten years still felt like I had another decade of growth in the role.  

I did not anticipate the next opportunity I would be given, but when our previous dean announced he was leaving UofL, I was asked by Dr. David Dunn, our Executive Vice President for Health Affairs to step into the interim dean role, and I agreed to do so.

That inflection point brought me to the fourth and last phase of my career at UofL – my ten years as dean. I did not originally plan to apply for the permanent position but after a few months as interim dean, I found that I loved the new role and felt that I was making a difference for the school. There was a national search, and I was honored to have been selected as permanent dean—and the first woman dean at the School of Medicine.  

My year as interim dean and ten years as permanent dean have been the most challenging but also the most rewarding years of my career. The early years were tumultuous, and we were facing a major LCME accreditation challenge. But we used the challenge as a galvanizing force to come together and transform our educational program and our instructional facilities and we prevailed. Fast forward to our most recent accreditation site visit and we have a “perfect report card”. Our educational team is extraordinarily strong and committed and I am confident we will continue to provide an exceptional experience for our learners. 

Our clinical enterprise also faced challenges, with 33 disparate faculty practices, changing management at Jewish Hospital that weakened our alignment, and occasional transactional skirmishes with Norton Healthcare over Pediatrics. Again, we prevailed.  With strong clinical leadership at the school and the institution and a renewed commitment of our clinical affiliate leaders, a unified faculty practice was established, an extraordinarily successful UofL Health system was created and a truly integrated clinical partnership with Norton Health Care for Pediatrics was formed.

In the research area, we have become nationally recognized for our work in environmental health, liver disease, spinal cord injury, cardiovascular and cancer. This work continues to transform lives.

We seemed to be mostly firing on all cylinders when our world was upended in March of 2020 by the COVID 19 global pandemic. Again, we prevailed. We transitioned to virtual education but were fully present for our patients and served as a valuable resource for our community for testing, treatment, research and ongoing monitoring. We have emerged even stronger coming out of the pandemic.

It has been a joy and privilege to serve the school and the institution this past forty years. I owe a debt of gratitude to my outstanding leadership team, our amazing faculty, awesome students, incredible residents, and exemplary staff for their support and their unwavering commitment to help us carry out our mission of improving the health of our community, our commonwealth and our world. 

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. I wish each of you well and will think of you often.