September 1, 2011

Fowinkle recalled as relationship builder

Fowinkle recalled as relationship builder

Eugene W. Fowinkle, M.D., associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs at Vanderbilt from 1983 to his retirement in 1999, died Friday, Aug. 26. He was 76.

Eugene W. Fowinkle, M.D.

Eugene W. Fowinkle, M.D.

Dr. Fowinkle had already had a full and distinguished career when he came to VUMC. He was born in Memphis, one of nine children, and he was a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in that city. He went on to add a masters in Public Health from the University of Michigan.

He worked as director of Communicable Disease Control at the Memphis-Shelby County Health Department, and became director of the department in 1966. Three years later he was appointed Tennessee Commissioner of Public Health, a post he held under four governors.

He was persuaded to come to Vanderbilt by Roscoe R. “Ike” Robinson, M.D., who had become vice chancellor for Health Affairs in 1981 and had decided he wanted Dr. Fowinkle to be part of the team he was assembling at Vanderbilt.

“Gene was a vital member of Ike Robinson's team at Vanderbilt,” said Norman Urmy, vice president of Vanderbilt Health Services, who held several administrative positions during that time.

“He brought perspective, knowledge and relationships that helped the Medical Center improve its standing in Middle Tennessee. And his creativity and energy helped us design and launch many of our successful initiatives during that time. He was a pleasure to work with.”

“Gene Fowinkle was one of the people who worked to make Vanderbilt the great place it is today,” said Bill Hance, J.D., assistant vice chancellor for Medical Center News and Communications. “He and I worked closely on many projects over the years, and he was always knowledgeable and straightforward, and had a knack for getting people together to make progress.”

Dr. Fowinkle’s deep knowledge and expertise in public health made him a nationally sought expert, and, among many achievements, he served on the President’s Commission on Three Mile Island Task Force on Public Health and Epidemiology, as well as the Programs and Policies Advisory Committee of the Centers for Disease Control. He also wrote and collaborated on a variety of articles on public health issues.

He received Distinguished Service Awards from numerous groups, including the Tennessee Medical Association, Tennessee Public Health Association and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

Dr. Fowinkle is survived by his wife, Ruby Youngblood Fowinkle, three daughters, five grandchildren, and a sister. One of Dr. Fowinkle’s daughters is Greta Fowinkle, R.N., director of Case Management and Utilization Management for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4, at West End United Methodist Church, where Dr. Fowinkle was a longtime member of the choir. Visitation with the family will be from 1 to 2 p.m., and again following the service.