Honoring A Medical Pioneer: Distinguished Professor of Medicine Harvey Feigenbaum

Presentation of President’s Medal to Dr. Harvey Feigenbaum
Lilly House
Indianapolis, Indiana
June 9, 2014

Welcome And Acknowledgements

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

I want to thank you for joining us at the Lilly House for this reception in honor of Distinguished Professor of Medicine Dr. Harvey Feigenbaum.

Would you join me in expressing our thanks to the students from IU’s world-renowned Jacobs School of Music who have provided the splendid music for this evening’s reception?

I am delighted to welcome the many friends of Dr. and Mrs. Feigenbaum who have joined us for this special occasion, as well as Dr. Feigenbaum’s colleagues from the IU School of Medicine and the Krannert Institute of Cardiology.

I want to extend a special welcome to Dr. Jay Hess, Indiana University’s vice president for university clinical affairs and dean of the IU School of Medicine. Would you join me in welcoming him?

I am also pleased that we are joined by two former deans of the IU School of Medicine.

Craig Brater, who retired a year ago as dean of the school and IU’s first vice president for university clinical affairs is here with his wife, Stephanie; and Steven Beering, President Emeritus of Purdue University and former dean of the IU School of Medicine is here with his wife Jane.

Would you join me in welcoming them?

I am delighted, as well, to welcome a number of members of Dr. Feigenbaum’s family.

We are joined this evening by Dr. Feigenbaum’s wife, Phyllis; their son, Tom Feigenbaum, of Carmel, Indiana, and his family; and their son, Lyle Feigenbaum, of Bloomington, and his family.

Would you join me in welcoming all the members of the Feigenbaum family?

Honoring Dr. Harvey Feigenbaum

As you all know very well, the great talent concentrated in so many areas at the IU School of Medicine has allowed for the provision of the very best medical care to our communities. It has also allowed IU researchers to make new discoveries that have improved upon that care, and it helps to ensure an exceptional quality of life for all Hoosiers.

This evening, it is my great pleasure to honor one faculty member whose extraordinary professional accomplishments have brought great distinction to the university and to the IU School of Medicine—Distinguished Professor of Medicine Harvey Feignebaum.

A Pioneer in Echocardiography

In response to frequent references to him over the years as “the father of echocardiography,” Dr. Feigenbaum points out that he was not the first to use cardiac ultrasound. But there is no question that he was the first to recognize its vast potential, the first to bring it into clinical practice, and that he is largely responsible for the development of the entire field.

As a young man, a scholarship brought him to Indiana University to study science. He earned a bachelor’s degree in anatomy and physiology, and then went on to earn his medical degree from the IU School of Medicine. After graduation, he interned at Philadelphia General Hospital and returned to IU Medical Center for his residency. He joined the IU faculty in 1962.

Dr. Feigenbaum has described his involvement with cardiac ultrasound as a classic example of a fortuitous event that literally changed his life.1

He describes how, after just about a year on the IU faculty, while eating lunch at his desk one day and flipping though a pile of papers and journals, he was intrigued by an advertisement for a machine that its manufacturers claimed could measure the volume of the heart using ultrasound technology. He called the company and was told the equipment would be displayed during an upcoming meeting of the American Heart Association.

When Dr. Feigenbaum saw the machine at that meeting, it was immediately clear to him that it could not do what was advertised. However, when he placed the transducer on his own chest and saw a moving spike or echo signal, apparently bouncing off the back wall of his heart, he immediately thought that he could use the device to detect fluid that collects in the sac surrounding the heart, a condition known as pericardial effusion.

When he returned to IU, he borrowed an unused ultrasound machine from the neurology department and continued to experiment. He confirmed that cardiac ultrasound could be used to identify pericardial effusion and the technique proved to be the first reliable, long-lasting diagnostic application of cardiac ultrasound.

Today, echocardiography has become the world’s leading cardiovascular imaging tool. It is one of the most widely used diagnostic tools in all of medicine, and is used countless times a day to evaluate the size, shape and condition of the heart.

In 2002, the Texas Heart Institute Journal rated echocardiography among cardiology’s 10 greatest discoveries of the 20th century.2

And the fact that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States makes Dr. Feigenbaum’s indispensible contributions to what has become such a critical aspect of clinical cardiology all the more momentous.

Dr. Feigenbaum’s Career and Honors

Of course, Dr. Feigenbaum’s extraordinary contributions as an educator are also a large part of his legacy.

In 1968, he taught the first medical school course devoted to echocardiography. Through his courses and workshops, his lectures around the globe, and by opening up his laboratory to interested physicians and researchers from around the world, he trained not only the first generation of researchers and practitioners in echo, but subsequent generations, as well.

Working with those he had trained, Dr. Feigenbaum continued to develop numerous other diagnostic applications for echocardiography that are still being used today.

He also initiated the use of cardiac sonographers—technicians specifically trained to perform echocardiograms.

In 1972, he published the definitive text on the subject, Echocardiography, a classic text now in its seventh edition. It has been translated into many languages, including Russian, Japanese, German, Italian and Spanish, just to name a few.

He founded the American Society of Echocardiography, was its first president, and was the first editor of its journal for 20 years.

In 2010, Dr. Feigenbaum was awarded Mastership at Internal Medicine by the American College of Physicians. ACP Masters are highly accomplished individuals who are selected on the bases of “personal character, positions of honor, contributions towards furthering the purposes of the ACP, eminence in practice or in medical research, or other attainments in science or in the art of medicine.”3

The Harvey Feigenbaum Fellowship in Echocardiography at the IU School of Medicine supports future generations of cardiologists and ensures that Dr. Feigenbaum's vast contributions are remembered for all time.

Presenting the President's Medal

Tonight, in recognition of Dr. Feigenbaum’s extraordinary service to Indiana University and the IU School of Medicine, his eminence in practice and research, and his enormous contributions to the field of cardiology, it is my great pleasure to present him with the highest honor an Indiana University president can bestow. 

Dr. Feigenbaum, would you please join me at the podium? 

The President’s Medal for Excellence is a reproduction in fine silver of the symbolic jewel of office worn by Indiana University’s president at ceremonial occasions. Three precious stones within the jewel represent the university’s cultivation of reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as the arts, sciences, and humanities. 

This medal is given to recognize exceptional distinction in public service, service to Indiana University, achievement in a profession, or extraordinary merit and achievement in the arts, humanities, sciences, education, and industry.

Dr. Feigenbaum, you have exceeded these criteria during the course of your outstanding career at Indiana University, and for that let me extend our deepest and most grateful thanks. 

So, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the trustees of Indiana University, and in gratitude for your extraordinary service and your accomplished career which has brought great distinction to Indiana University and the IU School of Medicine, I am privileged and honored to present to you the President’s Medal for Excellence.


Source Notes

  1. Harvey Feigenbaum, “Evolution of Echocardiography,” Circulation 93 (1996): 1321-1327, Web. Accessed June 2, 2014, URL: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/93/7/1321.full#cited-by

  2. Nirav J. Mehta, M.D. and Ijaz A. Kahn, M.D., “Cardiology’s 10 Greatest Discoveries of the 20th Century,” Texas Heart Institute Journal 29(3) (2002, 164-171.

  3. American College of Physicians, Inc. Bylaws, criteria for Mastership, as cited at http://www.acponline.org/about_acp/awards_masterships/mastership.htm