The 2019 Distinguished Mentor Award Celebration will be held on Thursday, Oct. 17, at 3 p.m. in Prem Sahai Auditorium (1110A MERF), with a distinguished lecture by Richard S. Finkel, MD.
Edward F. Bell, MD, has spent the majority of his career saving tiny lives at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. During his 17 years as director of the Division of Neonatology, Bell set high standards for medical care, research, and mentorship. The number of lives he has touched, directly or indirectly, is impressive and says much about his tireless devotion to his patients and their families as well as students, residents, and fellows.
“When one considers the ripple effects of his clinical practice, research, and mentorship, the extent of his impact is astounding, and it goes far beyond Iowa or even the Midwest,” says Matthew Rysavy, MD, PhD, a UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital neonatology fellow who was inspired to work in the field after meeting Bell as a first-year medical student at the UI Carver College of Medicine. “Personally, Dr. Bell has had a profound impact on my own life.”
Rysavy nominated Bell for the award, and his letter of recommendation was accompanied by letters of support from many of Bell’s former mentees and fellows. They cited Bell’s technical skills, sharp mind, and desire to bring neonatology expertise to less-developed areas of the world. They also emphasized the Tiniest Babies Registry, an online listing of the world’s smallest surviving premature infants, which Bell started in 2000; the many groundbreaking research projects he has guided; and his work with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Neonatal Research Network, of which UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital is a member.
“I would be hard-pressed to identify a mentor who has had a more significant effect on my life,” said John Dagle, MD, PhD, a neonatologist and professor in the Stead Family Department at the UI. “He taught me many big-picture lessons, such as the ethics of saving the lives of periviable preterm infants and the value of parental inclusion with complete honesty in decision-making, but also to pay attention to the smaller things. He has been a role model not only in what he says, but also in the way he has lived his life.”
A word that comes up often when people describe Bell is “selfless.” Diana Caprau, MD, director of the Neonatology Department of the Sierra Vista Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, California, says that when she arrived in Iowa as a young Romanian doctor to work alongside Bell and announced to him that she didn’t have a car to get through the winter, Bell handed her his car keys and said: “Now you have a car. Winters in Iowa are no joke. Use it for as long as you need it.”
“In the most difficult moments of my life, he was there for me without ever making me feel that I owed him anything in return,” Caprau notes.
These accolades provide a portrait of a man who has spent a lifetime caring for the most fragile of humans and teaching others how to do the same.
“In the aggregate, Ed is highly deserving of this award for the breadth of individuals he has mentored and for the quality and quantity of the support provided, for its delivery without regard to reward, and the thousands of lives saved or improved by its direct translation,” says pediatrician Jeffrey Murray, MD, professor in the Stead Family Department of Pediatrics at the UI. “He is a gem without peer and will lend stature to this award even as I am sure he would claim to be unworthy.”