Dean Emanuel, M.D.
Dean Emanuel, M.D.
2006 Heritage Foundation Award Winner
“Living legend of Marshfield Clinic” Receives Clinic’s Heritage Award
On the night before ground was broken on a new $40 million Melvin R. Laird Center for Medical Research in Marshfield, there was considerable name calling – all positive – about Dean Emanuel, M.D., retired Marshfield Clinic cardiologist and researcher extraordinaire.
“Dean is the spirit, the driving force behind research performed here,” said Melvin R. Laird, former U.S. Secretary of Defense and a Marshfield native. “He is a living legend of Marshfield Clinic.”
Emanuel also was tagged September 7 as “The father of the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation,” “The father of the National Farm Medicine Center,” “The father of agro-medicine” and a doctor “whose research put Marshfield Clinic on the map.” Those titles were given when he was awarded the Clinic’s Heritage Foundation Award, given each year for significant contributions to the community in government, civic leadership, education, medicine, law or business.
Laird, the first Heritage Award recipient in 1998, described Emanuel’s distinguished service to the Clinic and research into lung diseases, including farmer’s lung and maple bark disease. “His vision for performing medical research shows a real leader.”
With encouragement of Stephan Epstein, M.D., Emanuel applied for and received the Clinic’s first National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to study farmer’s lung in 1959 – $41,219 spread over five years. With it and other NIH grants, Emanuel and a team that included Frederick Wenzel, co-investigator and director of Marshfield Clinic Laboratories, identified the causes of farmer’s lung, organic dust toxic syndrome and maple leaf disease. That allowed them to advise patients about how they could minimize their exposure to these potentially life-threatening diseases. From these discoveries came the National Farm Medicine Center as a division of the Research Foundation. “We are in an agricultural area. I was always a little embarrassed that we didn’t tumble into this a little quicker,” he said in a 2001 interview.
Wenzel, later the Clinic’s executive director for 18 years, said he stood on the shoulders of giants when he worked with Emanuel and others at Marshfield Clinic. Always amazed at the connections Emanuel made, he recalled the two of them standing in Times Square in New York City when they were there to give a speech. Wenzel asked his colleague how long he thought it would be before Emanuel saw someone he knew. “I hardly had the words out of my mouth when a man in his 40s said, ‘Dr. Emanuel, it is great to see you."
While most people recognized Emanuel’s pioneering work in pulmonary disease, Russell Lewis, M.D., said, “He was the first real cardiologist we had. Nobody contributed more to Marshfield Clinic cardiology than Dean Emanuel.” It was because Emanuel had the foresight to create a heart catheterization laboratory that a heart surgery was possible. “Now we have the second largest heart program in the state and one of the best,” said Lewis, the 2003 Heritage Award recipient.
Also, Emanuel helped change the image of Marshfield Clinic among small community doctors when he set up a program for them to send EKGs via telephone for immediate readings by cardiologists. That opened the door to the Clinic’s outreach laboratory and consultations, providing services that allowed these doctors to continue to care for their patients themselves.
“They got to know us and to like us because Dean Emanuel acted first to get to know them,” Lewis added.
George Magnin, M.D., 2000 Heritage Award recipient, first met Emanuel when he was hospitalized with tuberculosis. “He is one of the world-renowned physicians, but not when I met him when I was in my internal medicine residency,” Magnin said. “When I was caring for him, it was immediately apparent that he was a very special person. He was more interested in what he could do for me than I could do for him.”
Magnin also noted that Emanuel graciously turned down the opportunity to have the new disease of pulmonary mycotoxicosis named after him because he thought it should have a more descriptive title. “If Dr. Epstein was the head of the Research Foundation, Dean Emanuel was the heart of the institution,” Magnin said.
Other comments came from Barbara Lee, Ph.D., NFMC director, who said, “This past April we had a big celebration of the 25th anniversary of the National Farm Medicine Center that began with Dr. Emanuel’s research. He had the foresight to understand what happened on farms in the local area had global implications.”
Peter Emanuel, M.D., a University of Alabama-Birmingham cancer specialist, described his parents’ “perfect partnership” as serving as role modeling for the four Emanuel children. He also discussed his father’s “artful act of balance,” although it was hard for the children to see that – or perhaps smell – that balance when those early “putrid smelling” EKG reports arrived in their home in the middle of the night.
Emanuel thanked each of the speakers, his family, colleagues and others who were no long present except in spirit, including the late surgeon Ben Lawton, M.D. “I feel very humbled and very honored to be the honoree,” Emanuel said, “especially at this time with the groundbreaking of this major building tomorrow.”
Read Dean Emanuel's biography.
Video highlights of Dean Emanuel's acceptance speech.
View the entire 2006 Heritage Award presentation.
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