IU emeritus and first female president of the American College of Cardiology's estate gifts school 8.5 million to benefit heart research, education

October 16, 2014

A gift of nearly $8.5 million from the estate of a prominent cardiologist and IU School of Medicine faculty member will support cardiovascular research and education and medical student scholarships.

Suzanne Buckner Knoebel, M.D., inducted as first female president of the American College of Cardiology. | Photo By American College of Cardiology

Suzanne Buckner Knoebel, M.D., died July 2 at the age of 87. Dr. Knoebel was an alumna and longtime faculty member of the IU School of Medicine and served as the first female president of the American College of Cardiology, one of the most influential professional societies for cardiologists in the world.

Support from Dr. Knoebel will benefit the Dr. Charles Fisch Cardiovascular Research Endowment. This fund was established by Dr. Knoebel in memory of her colleague and mentor, Charles Fisch, M.D., founder and 30-year director of the Krannert Institute of Cardiology at the IU School of Medicine. The Fisch Cardiovascular Research Endowment supports young investigators embarking on new careers in cardiovascular research and more senior investigators undertaking new research directions.

Dr. Knoebel’s gift also will establish a fund to pay for cardiology faculty and fellows to travel to educational programs and receive training in new techniques and advancements. In addition, the gift will establish the Buckner Family Scholarship to honor the five generations of Dr. Knoebel’s family that practiced medicine. The scholarship will be awarded to students of high academic standing who also participate in scholarly creative activity, such as scientific research or clinical studies.

Dr. Knoebel's gift will benefit Dr. Charles Fisch Cardiovascular Research Endowment. 

"Dr. Knoebel's dedication to patient care will long survive her with her gift to Indiana University School of Medicine," said Peng-Sheng Chen, M.D., Medtronic Zipes Professor of Cardiology, professor of medicine and director of the Krannert Institute of Cardiology.

"Over the past decade, academic institutions have seen a reduction in extramural research support," Dr. Chen said. "It is increasingly difficult for young investigators to compete for research grant funding from the National Institutes of Health and other funding agencies. Dr Knoebel’s gift will fill a critical void in supporting the development of new research careers among our young faculty members and our cardiology fellowship trainees.

"In addition, the travel funds will give our young trainees access to the new information presented in national scientific meetings. The new and useful information will tremendously enrich their training and their future careers. More importantly, the new information generated by these original research projects and the better training received by our cardiology fellows will benefit patients with heart diseases everywhere," he said.

A native of Fort Wayne, Ind., Dr. Knoebel attended Goucher College in Baltimore, Md., majoring in international relations. After graduating in 1948, she worked for several years for the Chamber of Commerce in Hawaii, before pursuing a career as a physician, as had her father, uncle and brother. Her mother was a nurse. Dr. Knoebel enrolled at IU, earning her medical degree in 1960. She remained at IU for her internship, residency and fellowship in cardiology and served as a visiting fellow at the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Knoebel's colleague and mentor, Dr. Fisch, served as founder and 30-year director of the Krannert Institute of Cardiology.  | Photo By IU School of Medicine

Dr. Knoebel joined the IU School of Medicine faculty in 1964 and was affiliated with the school’s Krannert Institute of Cardiology. She served as the institute’s associate director from 1974 to 1990 and the medical school’s assistant dean for research. At Krannert, she led the development of several major programs, including the innovative use of telephone lines for the transmission of electrocardiograms from outlying areas to the medical center.

At a time when women were a definite minority in the field of medicine, Dr. Knoebel was highly regarded nationally and internationally. In addition to serving as the first female president of the American College of Cardiology from 1982 to 1983, she was named one of the “100 Most Important Women in America” by Ladies’ Home Journal in 1983, 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.

As a cardiology researcher, Dr. Knoebel published hundreds of scientific papers, but her writing did not stop there. She authored numerous children's books and fictional novels, usually involving her two passions: medicine and animals. Her works include such diverse titles as "Electrocardiography of Clinical Arrhythmias" by Charles Fisch and Suzanne B. Knoebel; and easier reads such as "Something to Crow About!: A Bird's Tale" and "Dr. Tootsie: A Young Girl's Dream."