Philanthropy: Lehan’s Legacy: Endowed chair honors legendary chief of cardiology
By Tom Fortner
They don’t make medical school faculty members like Dr. Patrick Lehan anymore. If they did, life would be a lot more interesting.
Lehan, who was arguably the pre-eminent cardiologist in Mississippi for more than 30 years, was known not only as a superb clinician and educator at UMMC but also as a fellow who could curse a blue streak and who didn’t necessarily do things by the book.
“He was more colorful than faculty are allowed to be today,” said University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones, carefully choosing his words in remembering Lehan.
He was also a beloved mentor to anybody who had the good fortune to be his student. During a 36-year run on the UMMC faculty, he trained 75 cardiology fellows, a benchmark unlikely to ever be exceeded.
“He was cardiology in Mississippi,” said Dr. Michael McMullan, a cardiologist with Jackson Heart who was one of those who fell under the spell of the charismatic Lehan.
Lehan’s legacy was the focus recently when many of his colleagues and trainees gathered to celebrate the completion of the funding for the Patrick H. Lehan Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine and its awarding to the first recipient, Dr. William C. Little. Little, an eminent cardiologist in his own right, joined UMMC as the chair of the Department of Medicine last summer after a long tenure at Wake Forest University.
Lehan, known by those around him as “Chief,” was professor of medicine and headed the Division of Cardiology from 1970 to 1995. Under his leadership, UMMC’s training program in cardiology was regarded as one of the best in the Southeast. He died in 2002.
The chair named in his honor was in large part funded by many of his trainees, the majority of whom have remained in Mississippi to practice.
Little earned his medical degree from Ohio State University and completed his residency at the University of Virginia and his fellowship in cardiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has been a prolific researcher with more than 240 peer-reviewed articles, 35 of which have been cited more than 100 times.
Little said he and his wife, Connie, were intrigued by the possibilities they saw when they visited Jackson and UMMC.
“It was clear that something was going on here and we wanted to be part of it.”