Wednesday, December 18, 2013
It’s an old proverb, with a relatively simple message. And, as Barbara Burch Fleming, PhD, MD (’86), would tell you, it’s no less true.
In fact, Dr. Fleming says, it’s the main reason that she and her husband, Jim, recently decided to make a donation to the University of Maryland School of Medicine: to repay the kindness and support that Frank M. Calia, MD, MACP, professor emeritus, former vice dean, and chair of medicine, showed to her and countless other residents and medical students through the years.
“If you benefit from someone else’s gesture of good will, you gain value from it,” she says. “Why wouldn’t you want to do the same for someone else?”
Dr. Fleming earned a degree in medicine, and spent her residency at the University of Maryland Medical Center. She says she cherishes her days at Maryland, which were characterized by hard work and the camaraderie of “wonderful, bright, compassionate doctors and fellow students and residents.” The experience she gained at the school -- from learning patient care to administration to academic medicine -- inspired her to practice in a way that has been “an enriching part” of her life.
Dr. Fleming, who completed a PhD in nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University and a postdoctorate at NIH prior to enrolling at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, most recently served as Chief Quality Officer for a 150-hospital, 800-clinic medical system. During her career, she has received numerous honors, including the Surgeon General’s Distinguished Service Medal for Contributions to the Health of the Nation (the highest award given by the Surgeon General).
Dr. Fleming says that her husband, Jim, who also earned a PhD at Cornell and supervises a research program in the Southeastern United States for the Department of the Interior, provided the support and encouragement that she needed during medical school, and that has been the hallmark of their relationship.
"I certainly wouldn't have had the opportunity to go to medical school without Jim's support," she says.
Moreover, Dr. Fleming says that none of her accomplishments in the field of medicine would have been possible without the support and solid education she received at the University of Maryland.
“Attending the University of Maryland School of Medicine provided the education and training I needed,” she says, “and the physician-teachers I met became role models who inspired me to make a difference.”
One individual, however, stands out in her mind from all the rest.
“Dr. Frank Calia is the epitome of a wonderful, bright, compassionate, and inspirational physician and teacher,” Dr. Fleming says. “Dr. Calia is the kind of physician that all of us hope that we can be.”She adds that Dr. Calia, who retired in 2012, went beyond his proscribed role as physician-teacher to provide encouragement and guidance, in many different ways, during his years at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and University of Maryland Medical Center.
“Dr. Calia was more than just the Vice Chairman of the Department of Medicine at that time. As director of the residency program and the student clerkship director, he was very helpful and sensitive to us. Not just about our education but also about the experience for residents and students. He was a role model for the kind of person and the kind of physician we needed to be.”
She quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson when characterizing Dr.Calia’s approach to medicine and teaching: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
“I need to add here,” she says, “that Dr. Calia certainly always seemed very happy, too!”
When the Flemings, who now reside in Tennessee, learned that the University of Maryland was establishing a fund to honor Dr. Calia’s legacy, Dr. Fleming says they knew immediately that they wanted to contribute to the effort.
“[Jim and I] could not think of a better way to recognize this incredibly astute physician, inspirational teacher, and man of unquestioned integrity,” she says, “and to advance the cause of high-quality medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.”
Although the Flemings have given to the school on an annual basis, this time they wanted to do something that would “make a lasting impression,” according to Dr. Fleming. Hearing that the university had reached 60% of its goal for the endowment, the Flemings decided to help narrow the gap by making a leadership commitment of $650,000 from their estate. (She and Jim also made an initial $1,000 outright Calia Professorship gift earlier in 2013.)
“Dr. Calia is one of my personal heroes. He meant so much to me,” she says. “I wanted to help honor someone whom we hold in such high esteem.”
As one of the University of Maryland’s most valuable means of rewarding the efforts of exceptional faculty, an endowed professorship is supported in large part by philanthropic gifts and produces an annual income that becomes a stream of perpetual support. Endowments allow faculty to invigorate research interests, refine and enhance teaching skills and build bridges to academic disciplines.
Establishment of the Frank M. Calia, MD, Professorship in Medicine will honor in perpetuity Frank M. Calia, MD, MACP, for his exceptional contributions and leadership as an outstanding physician, scientist, leader, and mentor in the field of infectious disease, microbiology, and immunology. Dr. Calia served as an esteemed faculty member at the University of Maryland School of Medicine for more than 40 years, educating and training scores of physicians and physician-scientists, and the endowment is intended to ensure that he remains a shining example for current and future faculty members.
To date, the school has received gifts and commitments totaling $1.5 million from faculty, alumni, and friends for the endowed professorship to honor Dr. Calia and the impact he has made on students and the medical community.
Dr. Fleming says she hopes that their gift will inspire others to consider giving back, whether in support of the Calia Professorship or in other ways. Specifically, she is hopeful that the endowed professorship will become a distinguished professorship with additional contributions.
“The knowledge and wisdom I gained from [Dr. Calia] have made a really important difference in my life,” she says. “When someone is such a positive influence in your life, you are inspired to make a difference in other peoples’ lives. It’s a ripple effect.
“Jim and I feel strongly about making a difference in as many ways as we can,” she adds. “We want to help in a way that can make the biggest impact. An endowed professorship has high impact because it touches the lives of so many people.”
In other words, she says, the couple believes the new professorship will help her alma mater to recruit “outstanding faculty of the same caliber” as Dr. Calia.
“The University of Maryland School of Medicine produces wonderful practicing physicians, locally and nationally. If we can help the Calias of tomorrow to touch and shape the lives of hundreds of doctors per class, that would be a huge ripple effect.”
Even though the couple now focuses much of their philanthropic efforts on causes in their home state of Tennessee, Dr. Fleming says she is very much aware of the goings-on at the University of Maryland and how her gift and others like it can make a difference, even from afar.
“For sure, the work done at the University of Maryland has an impact far beyond the walls of the university and the borders of the state,” she says. “Those folks are the ones who make a difference in shaping future generations of doctors and in doing the research that advances the quality of care in this country and beyond.”
And that sentiment -- transforming a personal gesture into something that is universally beneficial -- reminds Dr. Fleming of yet another sentiment from Emerson. Namely, that though you can seldom pay back a good deed, you can always pay it forward.
“If an institution has made a difference in your life, allowed you to do work that you love, then supporting the ongoing work of that university is a wonderful way to give back to future generations of physicians and contribute to the health of this nation,” she says.
If you would like to make direct a gift to the Calia Professorship, or for more information about making a donation, contact the University of Maryland School of Medicine Office of Development at 410-706-8503.
Brian & Heather DeFilippis
Michael Cushner, MD
Louis DeTolla, VMD, PhD
Michael J. Dodd
Alan I. Faden, MD
Barbara B. Fleming, MD & Jim Fleming, PhD
Claire M. Fraser, PhD
Jay S. Goodman, MD
Deborah F. Groleau & George E. Groleau, MD
Angela S. Guarda, MD
Phyllis W. Hayes
Sharon Henry, MD
Gail M. Liss & Robert A. Liss, MD
Margaret M. McCarthy, PhD
Mercy Medical Center (Thomas R. Mullen)
Michael D. Moyer
University of Maryland OB/GYN Associates, PA
Harry A. Oken, MD
Clayton, L. Raab, MD
University of Maryland Radiation Oncology Associates, PA
William F. Regine, MD & Julie Regine
Thomas M. Scalea, MD
Alexis Sharoky & Melvin Sharoky, MD
Gary L. Simon, MD, PhD
Carol O. Tacket, MD & James Kaper, PhD
Michael E. Weinblatt, MD
Matthew R. Weir, MD
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