How does a team say good-bye to someone who has served as its center and one of its strongest advocates for decades? The Division of Nephrology and Hypertension had to give it a try last week before Rebecca Hegeman, MD, retired from a career spent at the University of Iowa, building and maintaining one of the strongest clinical services in our institution, educating countless trainees, and recruiting and mentoring scores of faculty colleagues.
“Some are born to lead, and others have it thrust upon them,” Christie Thomas, MD, said in his remarks last Friday in the Heart & Vascular Center’s conference room. Colleagues had gathered, in proper PPE, to wish Hegeman a happy retirement before she and her husband moved to California to be nearer their children and grandchildren.
Thomas was referring in part to the last two roles Hegeman held at Iowa, Interim Chief Medical Information Officer for University of Iowa Health Care for nearly two years and, before that, Interim Division Director for Nephrology and Hypertension for nearly five years. In each instance, Thomas noted, especially the role of division director, Hegeman saw the need and employed her leadership skills to allow the organization to continue and even to flourish.
Current Division Director Chou-Long Huang, MD, PhD, opened the event with similar praise for Hegeman’s talents and extended his gratitude for her remaining as Clinical Director with the division after he joined. He told the story of how Hegeman eventually convinced him to return to Iowa where he had trained, refusing to ever believe this was not his inevitable decision. And so it was that this leader led even in the search for her successor.
Gifts were presented to Hegeman by Lisa Antes, MD, one of the afternoon’s organizers. Among the presents was a book filled with photographs of Hegeman’s years at Iowa and comments from colleagues solicited by administrative services coordinator Sara Murph and Antes. Some of those comments inscribed in the book are below.
Tomoki Tsukahara, a former fellow, wrote:
I cannot thank Dr. Hegeman’s mentorship enough. Dr. Hegeman was my research mentor in 2012-2013. She taught me how to think and do research, but not only that, she cared about my future and tried to find grants or other opportunities so I can extend my academic career in the US after fellowship. I will never forget her caring mentorship. Though I chose to go back to Japan and work as a clinician (+ a little bit of educator), I have kept trying to be a mentor like her.
Gerald DiBona, professor emeritus, wrote:
Congratulations on your retirement from an outstanding career. And welcome to the next phase of your life. One advantage of a more senior perspective is to see that some of one’s predictions came true. During my time at the VA, my annual list of new residents who were destined to do good things in their future careers has only your name for your resident class. On top of everything else, is there a leadership role you haven’t taken on for the division or the department? A wonderful record of achievement and loyalty.
Joel Gordon, professor emeritus, wrote:
Dr. Hegeman has been a rock star for the Renal Division for over 3 decades. From Fellow to Junior and then Senior Faculty she has been one of the most loyal and dedicated members of the Division. She combines compassion with honesty and dedication that have made her one of the most sought-out members of the division for patient care, leadership, and departmental administration.
As a former faculty member involved in patient care I can’t begin to count how many times patients would ask me “where is Dr. Hegeman” or “why isn’t Dr. Hegeman on my case anymore?” When I would take over General Medicine or Renal Assignments from her, I knew I had big shoes to fill. Even after I retired, I heard from more than one former patient how much they enjoyed Dr. Hegeman’s care. I also heard from a retired faculty member how much he appreciated the care she was giving his elderly mother-in-law as she entered the world of dialysis.
Dr. Hegeman has made a difference in so many patient’s lives over the years. They were lucky to have her as their nephrologist and the division, department, and University will miss her skill, expertise, compassion, leadership, and judgment as she moves on the next phase of her life.
Carrie Means, social worker on the Dialysis Care Team, wrote:
Becky, you have been a fierce leader for the dialysis program and in particular those who make it special—the people. Thank you for being the wise and trusted leader we needed. We will miss you immensely!
Vicky Putnam, a scheduler for UI Health Care, wrote:
I have known you since Boyd Tower days. As a scheduler it’s crucial for me to have good communication with my physicians. YOU’RE THE BEST!!
Whatever I ask for your assistance regarding questionable referrals, complicated patients or referring physician requests, you always get back to me right away explaining a new guideline or medical diagnosis. That makes it easier to do my job. It’s been a pleasure working with you all these years, you will be greatly missed.
Congratulations to Dr. Rebecca Hegeman on an incredible career and a lasting legacy. Our best wishes for a warm and prosperous future ahead!