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VUMC mourns loss of pediatrician Geoffrey Fleming

Dec. 9, 2020, 2:21 PM

Geoffrey Fleming, MD, holds his wife, Amy, surrounded by their three daughters, L-R, Hannah, Virginia and Delaney. Fleming died of cancer Dec. 8.
Geoffrey Fleming, MD, holds his wife, Amy, surrounded by their three daughters, L-R, Hannah, Virginia and Delaney. Fleming died of cancer Dec. 8. (photo by Anne Rayner)

by Kathy Whitney

Geoffrey Fleming, MD, professor of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, and Vice President of Vanderbilt University Medical Center Continuous Professional Development, died Dec. 8. He was 50.

Dr. Fleming was diagnosed with metastatic cholangiocarcinoma in August 2019.

“Dr. Geoffrey Fleming exemplified the very best of what makes Vanderbilt such a special place. He coupled brilliance — as the consummate clinician, passionate educator and inspiring leader — with an infectious enthusiasm that we all found simply irresistible. With Geoffrey’s passing we lost more than an amazing colleague — we lost a true friend. Our thoughts are with Amy and the entire Fleming family, as their Vanderbilt family opens its heart to sustain and encourage them,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and CEO of VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Dr. Fleming earned his MD from the University of Virginia in 1993 and completed his fellowship at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, University of Michigan. He and his wife, Amy Fleming, MD, MScHPE, associate dean for Medical Student Affairs, moved to five states in their first 10 years of marriage before settling in Nashville to raise their children and begin their careers at Vanderbilt in 2007.

Dr. Fleming was offered a faculty position at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt that fulfilled his clinical and research interests in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT).

“Our division has lost an irreplaceable friend and colleague, one that I personally looked to as a sounding board for virtually all aspects of my own career,” said Fred Lamb, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Critical Care. “He was a fantastic leader who excelled in all aspects of academic medicine, but his skill as an educator was unparalleled, from ad hoc bedside talks to managing continuing medical education (CME) across VUMC.”

Dr. Fleming was instrumental in helping to create QuizTime, a VUMC-developed app for continuing medical education. He was named an SEC Academic Leadership Development Program fellow for 2016-17, and in 2018, he was selected to serve on the Continuing Board Certification’s Vision Initiative Commission.

In May, the Academy for Excellence in Education, established in 2007 to reinvigorate the education enterprise within Vanderbilt University and VUMC, honored Dr. Fleming with the Lillian B. Nanny Award for Outstanding Service to the VU/VUMC Community of Educators.

The Nanny Award is presented to a faculty member who has served Vanderbilt’s education community in a way that honors the legacy of Lillian Nanney, PhD, the founding director of the academy. Dr. Fleming was selected because of his extensive involvement in undergraduate and graduate medical education and his leadership role as vice president for Continuing Professional Development and previously as chair of the Faculty Senate during the 2017-18 academic year.

“Geoffrey lived his life with enthusiasm and a deep sense of commitment to his family, learners, colleagues and Vanderbilt. We will miss our friend dearly. I personally treasure every memory of interacting with Geoffrey — his impact on those with whom he worked and collaborated is priceless. The phrase that sums his influence is simple — Geoffrey cared,” said Donald Brady, MD, Executive Vice President for Educational Affairs and senior associate dean for Health Sciences Education.

Dr. Fleming received the 2020 Thomas Jefferson Award, made annually “for distinguished service to Vanderbilt through extraordinary contributions as a member of the faculty in the councils and government of the University.”

The award is presented by the Chancellor at the first meeting of the Fall Faculty Assembly, which officially begins each academic year.

“Geoffrey’s passing is a profound loss to our entire community. He was the consummate clinician-educator and academic ‘triple threat.’ He was full of passion and applied himself with devotion, commitment and integrity to every role in his professional life and in all aspects of his personal life. We extended our deepest condolences to his loving wife, Amy, and his three daughters, as well as to his extended family and friends. We are all better individuals for knowing and working with Geoffrey. He will be deeply missed,” said Steven Webber, MBChB, MRCP, James C. Overall Professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Pediatrician-in-Chief for Children’s Hospital.

In November, the Geoffrey Fleming Mentoring Program was established within VUSM to honor Dr. Fleming’s many contributions to medical education.

Dr. Fleming shared his thoughts about the end of life with Vanderbilt Medicine magazine in the fall 2020 issue. “My mantra through this has been, ‘Love deeply, live passionately and demand meaning and purpose in your life.’”

He is survived by his wife, Amy, and their three daughters, Hannah, Virginia and Delaney, and his mother, Tish.

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