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March 2006 Issue

Mary Mahoney, MD, with award-winner John Flege, MD, at the 2006 Business Courier Health Care Heroes awards dinner.
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Cincinnati Cardiac Icon Wins 'Lifetime Hero' Award

By Amanda Harper
Published March 2006

Despite the fact he's been practicing and developing innovative cardiac surgery techniques for 50 years, John Flege, MD, remains a startlingly modest guy who still works tirelessly every day to put the best interests of his patients first.

The UC cardiac surgeon and professor of surgery recently received the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Business Courier at its Health Care Heroes awards ceremony. Unanimously selected by a committee of community leaders, he joins an elite group of Tristate people who have made major contributions to medicine.

"Tonight, I've been characterized as a pioneer in cardiac surgery," said Dr. Flege during his acceptance speech, "but it's important to recognize the grandfathers and great grandfathers ahead of me who paved the way--as well as the legions of dedicated nurses and support personnel. Without them, we couldn't have gotten started!

"I just want to be remembered for doing a decent job," he finished modestly. "I think I've done that."

Most people would say Dr. Flege was a shoo-in for the award. That's because he's not only thought of as a leader in cardiac surgery, he's also been a teacher and a role model for generations of medical students and trainees.

"Dr. Flege is one of the best teaching professors in the cardiac world," says Randall Wolf, MD, a fellow professor of surgery at UC. "He has mentored many surgeons--including me. Dr. Flege is very highly regarded as one of the finest thinkers and innovators in cardiac surgery."

Dr. Flege founded the cardiac surgery program at Christ Hospital in 1969. He continued to raise the level of surgical care in Cincinnati by revamping the cardiac surgery program at Jewish Hospital (1978) and founding the programs at University Hospital (1982) and St. Elizabeth Hospital (1983)--all of which continue to excel today.

"I'm always searching for a better way of doing things," says Dr. Flege. "You must stimulate intellectual curiosity before you can be truly innovative."

Dr. Flege was not the only UC faculty member honored at the event. Judith Spilker, of emergency medicine, won the Health Care Hero provider category, while Lynne Wagoner, MD, of internal medicine, was named a finalist.

Surgeon Randall Wolf, MD, won the innovator category, and Stephen Page, PhD, of physical medicine and rehabilitation, was a finalist. The Southeastern Indiana Cancer Health Network, founded by College of Nursing faculty members Adrianne Lane and Mimi Martin, received the community outreach award.

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