January 20, 2006

Hazinski remembered for humanity, humility

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Tom Hazinski, M.D.

Hazinski remembered for humanity, humility

Tom Hazinski, M.D., will be remembered for many things in life, but two above all others — a thriving career at Vanderbilt University Medical Center that embraced patients, doctors, researchers, nurses and staff, and his devotion to his family.

Dr. Hazinski, who built Vanderbilt's Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine from scratch and for the past two years served as associate dean for Faculty Affairs, died last week from sudden cardiac arrest at his home. He was 57. He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Mary Fran Hazinski, R.N., M.S.N., a clinical nurse specialist in pediatric emergency and critical care at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, a son, Michael, 24, and other family members.

Dr. Hazinski, professor of Pediatrics, was a native of South Bend, Ind. He received his undergraduate degree from at the University of Notre Dame in 1971 and his medical degree at St. Louis University in 1975. He joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1984.

His career at Vanderbilt has been multi-faceted. In addition to directing the Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine, he and Nancy Brown, M.D., Robert H. Williams Professor of Medicine, began Vanderbilt's Master of Science in Clinical Investigation program.

He belonged to a number of professional organizations including The Society of Pediatric Research, of which he was past president, American Pediatric Society, American Physiological Society and the Perinatal Research Society. He has been included in the “Best Doctors in America” publication since 1998.

In 2004 Dr. Hazinski stepped into the role of associate dean for Faculty Affairs, a newly created position, where he monitored issues relating to faculty promotion and tenure and conflict of interest, helped identify and eliminate obstacles to faculty productivity and helped ensure that faculty understand academic guidelines.

He divided his time evenly — half in his new role and the other half among his other academic duties.

Vanderbilt Children's Hospital and the Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine held a special place in Dr. Hazinski's heart, said Mary Fran Hazinski. But he was equally devoted to his new role as associate dean. “It was an honor for him to work with Dean (Steven) Gabbe, Dr. (Gerald) Gotterer and the medical school faculty. He was proud to be part of the Vanderbilt family,” she said.

“He was a wonderful husband and father and a role model for Michael and me. I've been very blessed to be part of his life for 30 years. Michael and I are going to miss him.”

Dr. Hazinski was an exemplary professional, motivated to do the best for his patients and for the medical school, its faculty and students, said Steven Gabbe, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine.

“If you look at Tom's area of responsibility — promotions and tenure; conflict of interest; faculty grievances — these are among the most difficult areas, likely to raise tempers and create conflicts,” Gabbe said. “What was amazing was how Tom handled these situations. He was able to step in, look at the facts objectively, work with chairs and faculty, and time after time resolve these issues. The outcome wasn't always what each side wanted, but they felt they couldn't have been handled more fairly.”

In his new role, Dr. Hazinski assumed the faculty affairs responsibilities of Gerald Gotterer, M.D., senior associate dean for Academic Affairs, so that Gotterer was free to devote more of his time to the educational needs of medical students.

Gotterer said Dr. Hazinski was a perfect fit for the new role. “He had such a wonderful sense of the faculty's experiences and needs, and worked to develop the Faculty Orientation and Training Office, striving to minimize hassles and red tape for faculty,” he said. Dr. Hazinski had set into motion a new program for faculty development before his death.

To honor Dr. Hazinski, Gabbe announced this week that the annual faculty development symposium will be named the Tom Hazinski, M.D., Symposium and each year's keynote speaker will be the Hazinski lecturer.

“I really respected his abilities,” Gotterer said. “He handled individual faculty issues in a delicate fashion and found satisfactory solutions. He was such a kind person, had a wonderful sense of humor, and was a pleasure to be with. He will be missed as a colleague and a friend.”

Arnold Strauss, M.D., chair of Pediatrics and medical director of Children's Hospital, said Dr. Hazinski's death is a great loss to the hospital as well as the field of Pediatrics.

"Tom was a valued friend and colleague to many, many of us,” Strauss said. “His selfless contributions and dedication to career development and his mentorship of many faculty and fellows were generous and essential. Tom exemplified the consummate academician. He was an incredible role model for us all. We will miss him greatly."

Brown said Dr. Hazinski was a great mentor to her when they first began discussing developing the MSCI program in the late 1990s. The first class was enrolled in 2000. “He was very insightful in terms of getting everyone's buy in into a new idea,” she said. “That's something I had never done. He mentored me through that process, then allowed me to publicly represent the program. Then, later with his associate dean's role he shared insights he had learned so that I could learn. That was a very generous thing to do.”

Being kind was just his nature, she said. “When we were talking this past weekend, my children remembered that at every 'doctor party' we attended, Tom was the one who came up and talked to them.” She also remembers his humor. “He loved to tell stories on himself. At a recent elevate meeting, he stood up before about 500 people and told about the worst Christmas present he ever bought — a set of windshield wiper blades for Mary Fran.”

Dr. Hazinski's humor was “self deprecating,” Mary Fran said. “He had a very dry sense of humor, a very gentle sense of humor. He could diffuse a tense situation or cheer you up with a funny thought or teasing. He put everyone at ease.”

Donations in Dr. Hazinski's name may be made to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt Children's Fund, c/o Arnold W. Strauss, M.D., 2200 Children's Way, Nashville, 37232.