Turning Frustration into Inspiration
by Matt Getty
April 1, 2009
Edward Fleegler ’73 is a senior scholar at the Thomas Jefferson University Medical College, where he hopes that recipients of his scholarship might pursue graduate degrees in health-care policy, public health, chronic disease or patient safety after graduating from Dickinson. His desire to give an opportunity to students, he says, is best summed up by this quote from Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Edward Fleegler ’73 wants to turn frustration into inspiration. As a
doctor specializing in geriatrics and internal medicine for more than
20 years, he got a long inside look at American health care, and he
didn’t like what he saw.
“It just really became apparent to me
that the system is flawed,” he explains. Daily hurdles ranged from
confusing Medicare guidelines and disagreements about the most
effective treatments to simply not having enough time with his
“It became very frustrating when I had appointments
scheduled for every 20 minutes and then an administrator comes in and
tells me we’re changing every appointment with geriatric patients to 12
minutes,” he recalls. “That seems like it’s more time efficient, but
it’s actually very inefficient and wasteful. For a geriatric patient to
walk in the office with one or two relatives and six layers of clothes.
By the time you get down to listening to their heart or checking their
blood pressure, 12 minutes are up.”
eventually pushed Fleegler from practicing health care to managing it.
In 2002 he joined the McKesson Corporation as medical director of
CareEnhance SM Disease Management Services, a position that allowed him
to develop new disease-management programs and lead medical research,
helping to shape national health-care guidelines. Today he’s working on
improving care by increasing the sharing of patient records and
treatment information among physicians as a medical director for Active
“Experiencing so many of the problems led me toward thinking, ‘OK, what are the possible solutions?’ ” he explains.
Fleegler knows he can’t devise those solutions alone. If the country
wants to get serious about health-care reform, he argues, it’s going to
take a lot of today’s best young minds.
“There’s no question
that reform of health care is on the horizon,” he explains. “If we
train the best and the brightest to become a part of that next group
working on these issues, then there will be some real, meaningful
To inspire some of Dickinson’s “best and
brightest” to take on that challenge, Fleegler recently pledged
$100,000 to establish the Fleegler Family Scholarship Endowment in
Health Studies. Beginning in 2012, the endowed fund will support
students pursuing a health-studies certificate who demonstrate what
Fleegler calls “a passion for compassion.”
“I hope that this
can serve as a spark,” he says. “Dickinson students are very bright,
and they’re thoughtful. They want to make a difference.”
a difference has long been important to Fleegler. His father Saul, in
whose honor the scholarship is partly named, provided the initial
example as a doctor who stressed the value of a close patient-physician
relationship. Later, Dickinson, where Fleegler majored in biology,
spurred his desire to make a positive impact.
fostered that vision of social awareness and the recognition that we’re
not just functioning in a microcosm, that we’re part of a larger
society and part of an international community,” he recalls.
wants the gift to encourage others to give back as well, noting that he
hopes current alumni and scholarship recipients who enjoy successful
health-care careers will consider supporting the fund so that it can
help even more students who want to make a difference.
“That passion for compassion needs to be re-established in the health-care system,” he says. “It needs to be carried forward.”