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Suzanne Knoebel

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Dr. Suzanne Buckner Knoebel

a renowned Indianapolis cardiologist who served as the first female president of the American College of Cardiology, died July 2, 2014 at age 87.

Born December 13, 1926 to Dr. and Mrs. Doster (Marie) Buckner, Dr. Knoebel grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Dr. Knoebel attended Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, majoring in international relations. After graduating in 1948, she worked several years for the Chamber of Commerce in Hawaii.

But medicine was in her blood, as her father, uncle and brother were physicians, and her mother was a nurse. Dr. Knoebel decided medicine would allow her to do something especially meaningful with her life, so she enrolled in the Indiana University School of Medicine, earning her medical degree in 1960. She remained at Indiana University for her internship, residency and fellowship in cardiology and served as a visiting fellow at the National Institutes of Health.

She said in a 1982 interview that she chose cardiology because, "It is a very acute specialty. Something's happening every minute. You have to make fast decisions." Dr. Knoebel was specifically drawn to academic medicine because of her strong belief in the importance of research and education, in addition to patient care. Without research, she once said, "We're doomed to practice the same medicine 20 years from now that we practice today."

Dr. Knoebel joined the faculty of the IU School of Medicine in 1964 and was affiliated with the school's Krannert Institute of Cardiology. She rose through the ranks, eventually serving as the institute's Associate Director from 1974-1990 and the medical school's assistant dean for research. She was a quiet but passionate leader who dedicated her career to Krannert, helping to build the infrastructure necessary for it to become a leader in cardiac research and education during its early years. She led the development of several major programs, including the use of telephone lines for the transmission of electrocardiograms from outlying areas to the medical center.

She was fittingly named the Herman C. and Ellnora D. Krannert Professor of Medicine in 1977 in honor of the philanthropists whose gift allowed for the establishment of the Krannert Institute and retained the title until her retirement in 2000.

Dr. Knoebel's influence on the field of cardiology extended well beyond Indiana. She was well-regarded nationally and internationally and served as the first female president of the American College of Cardiology from 1982-83. It is one of the most influential professional societies for cardiologists in the world. In 1983 she was named one of the "100 Most Important Women in America" by Ladies' Home Journal, mentioned alongside such luminaries as Sally Ride, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Walters and Julia Child. In 1973, she was one of eight U.S. heart specialists selected to visit China at the invitation of the Chinese government.

Dr. Knoebel has received many awards and recognitions for her accomplishments during her career. Among them are the Women's American Medical Association in 1969, the Matrix Award (Indiana Woman of the Year) in 1983, the Indiana University School of Medicine Distinguished Alumnus in 1984, and the Distinguished Fellowship Award of the American College of Cardiology in 1986. She also received an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Goucher College in 1988. In 2013, she was honored by the Indiana University School of Medicine for "over a half century of friendship, devotion and caring while exhibiting the highest ethical and moral standards."

Outside of work, she was perhaps most passionate about creative writing and horses. The latter interest developed as a child when she visited her grandfather's horse farm each summer. She would accompany her grandfather to the race track and learned to care for and train the horses. Later in life, she owned her own horses that raced in Ohio, Kentucky and elsewhere.

As a physician and researcher, Dr. Knoebel published hundreds of scientific papers, but it was her other writings that satiated her creative itch. Dr. Knoebel published numerous children's books and fictional novels, usually revolving around one or both of her two passions: medicine and animals.

Her love of her profession, respect for education and research, and her wish to honor her family led her to make several generous gifts to her medical alma mater, including creation of the Dr. Charles Fisch Research Enhancement Fund, support for Krannert Institute, and a planned gift to establish the "Buckner Family Scholorship."

Please direct memorial contributions to the Buckner Family Scholarship at the Indiana University School of Medicine and mail to: IU School of Medicine, c/o IU Foundation, PO Box 7072, Indianapolis, IN 46207-7072. Arrangements made by Little and Sons Funeral Home.

Published in the The Indianapolis Star on July 13, 2014
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