“Growing up, I was surrounded by doctors and the study of medicine. I couldn't help but be affected by my family's enthusiasm for the subject.”
“CHILDHOOD DREAMER AND DETERMINED BARRIER-BREAKER”
"I made the decision to devote my life to medicine as a sophomore in high school. I knew that is what I wanted to do," states Mary Elizabeth Fontana, for whom indecision has never been a problem. "Mostly, I was inspired to become a doctor by my science teachers in grade and high school, and by my father, who was an engineering professor," she recalls. Because of her determination, she has broken numerous barriers in the name of women in medicine.
To begin with, she graduated summa cum laude from the Ohio State University College of Medicine, receiving the American Medical Women's Association's (AMWA) Janet Glasgow Memorial Award for finishing first in her class.
Then, after interning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she returned to OSU in 1971, joining the medical faculty as its first full time female physician in cardiology, a role which she continues more than 30 years later as an associate professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine.
Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-OH-12) nominated Fontana as a Local Legend of Medicine for, among other attributes, her "profound commitment to service, to excellence and to meeting need where she has found it." He declares, "She is a tremendous role model for women, and men, in medicine and has earned the respect and admiration of colleagues, patients, students and the community."
The field of academic medicine involves a threefold mission of research, education, and patient care, and Fontana has proven herself apt in each discipline through her academic work and community service. Over more than 30 years as a teacher and student mentor, she has served on over twenty medical education committees and chaired several. She has created thirteen medical education curricular units on cardiovascular topics, including CD-ROMs and self-assessment programs. She has also volunteered with the American Heart Association in Advanced Cardiac Life Support.
Honoring Fontana as a pioneer for women in medicine, AMWA recognized her with its Gender Equity Award in 1996. She has received numerous teaching awards, too, including OSU's Distinguished Educator Award, in 1999, and the university's 2002 Alumni Achievement Award in 2002. She counts these as some of her "true milestones," especially the 2005 OSU Professor of the Year Award, because she is most proud of her work with students: "I was most touched by this recognition because it shows I have affected students' lives for the better," she says proudly.
Fontana has proven as devoted to her community as she is to her patients, demonstrating her compassion for others through ongoing service work. Among the awards she has garnered as a result of her devotion to her community are Central Ohio Heart Chapter's Distinguished Service Award and the first Mary Fontana Emergency Medical Services Distinguished Service Award from the City of Upper Arlington.
Graduated first in her medical school class
Earns Earl N. Metz Distinguished Physician Award from Cardiovascular Medicine department
Chosen as Professor of the Year by medical students
Ohio State University College of Medicine