In Memory of Two Outstanding Leaders

It is with great sorrow that I share with you the passing of two vital members of the UK College of Medicine’s history, both of whom were former chairs.

Ward O. Griffen, MD, PhD, former chair of the department of surgery, passed away Tuesday, July 21, at the age of 92, and Jacqueline Noonan, MD, former chair of the department of pediatrics, died on July 23 at the age of 91. The College of Medicine community will miss both deeply.

Ward O. Griffen, MD, PhD

Dr. Griffen was recruited to UK by the department of surgery’s founding chair, Ben Eiseman, MD, in 1965, serving as associate professor of surgery before becoming chair of the department in 1968. He held that position for more than 15 years, and under his direction, clinical volume in the department virtually doubled by the late 1970s.

Dr. Griffen also made significant contributions to surgery. In 1977, he introduced the Roux-en-y to the gastric bypass procedure. In 1984, he was named executive director of the American Board of Surgery and served in that role for a decade.

Thanks to his notable accomplishments at the College of Medicine, Dr. Griffen has had the Ward O. Griffen Endowed Chair in Surgery and the Ward O. Griffen Surgery Teaching Award for Excellence in Medical Student Education named in his honor.

Before arriving to UK, Dr. Griffen earned his medical degree from Cornell University and completed an internal medicine internship at Bellevue. He then finished a nine-year residency in general surgery and thoracic surgery at the University of Minnesota, later accepting a faculty appointment at the institution.

A devoted family man, Dr. Griffen is survived by his wife of 67 years, Margaret “Pudge” Griffen, seven children, 19 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

Dr. Griffen’s leadership and patient-centered care through the years has led the UK College of Medicine Department of Surgery to thrive. Dr. Griffen made a profound impact on his students and fellow faculty, and he will be sincerely missed.  

Jacqueline Noonan, MD

Without Dr. Noonan, her wealth of knowledge and endless compassion for students and patients, I am certain the University of Kentucky College of Medicine would not be where it is today. Dr. Noonan dedicated her life to advancing cardiology and pediatric care. In the process, she paved the way for future health care leaders, especially by establishing herself as a role model for women in medicine and science.

For more than 50 years, Dr. Noonan served the Bluegrass as a pediatric cardiologist, joining the College of Medicine in 1961 before the hospital was completed. During her time here, she served as chair of the department of pediatrics and most recently as professor emeritus.

Dr. Noonan was an innovator in her field. She was the first pediatric cardiologist at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where she observed a rare heart defect in children that was accompanied by distinct physical characteristics. The condition, characterized by distinct facial traits, short stature, and congenital cardiac defects, is now named “Noonan Syndrome.”

Through her more than half century of service, Dr. Noonan considered her patients and students to be like children of her own. Even in her more recent years she remained involved with medicine, and she volunteered her time to see young patients with sick hearts across Kentucky.

Dr. Noonan studied chemistry at the Albertus Magnus College and received her medical degree from the University of Vermont. She completed a residency at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and a fellowship at Children’s Hospital in Boston.

To this day, Dr. Noonan is recognized as one of the most important individuals in the history of American pediatric care. The College of Medicine community will miss Dr. Noonan greatly. Her dedication to Kentucky’s medical students and patients was unmatched, and it remains evident in every square inch of our campus today.

The University of Kentucky College of Medicine lost two influential educators, department leaders, and experts in their respective fields this month. While their memories can never be replaced, their impact and legacy will continue to live on.
Robert S. DiPaola, MD
Dean, College of Medicine