UC and UC Health create the Timothy Freeman, MD, Center for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Center is named for pioneer in field, longtime faculty member at the College of Medicine
Editor's Note: Timothy Freeman, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, died Feb. 3, 2022, after a brief battle with cancer. He was 66 years old.
The University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and UC Health have established the Timothy Freeman, MD, Center for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, honoring Timothy Freeman, MD, long-time assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine.
“For more than 30 years, Dr. Freeman has focused his medical practice on the care of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He is a pioneer in this field, caring for these patients long before there was national recognition of the need for improved health care for this population,” says Andrew T. Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean of the College of Medicine. “Additionally, he has taught, mentored and inspired hundreds of other physicians during his career. His incredible passion in treating people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and improving their health and quality of life has been truly remarkable, and we are thrilled to honor him in this way.”
The center is located in Suite 401 of the West Professional Building, 3120 Burnet Ave., on the UC Health campus. It will provide quality, coordinated, patient-centered care for adults with autism, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy and other intellectual and developmental disabilities in addition to training medical students and residents.
“Dr. Freeman was instrumental in developing the UC Health Transition Care Clinic and the UC Health Intellectual and Developmental Disability Program,” says Richard Lofgren, MD, president and chief executive officer of UC Health. “This fulfills his vision for an interdisciplinary center, and also will be a reminder to our community and future generations of Dr. Freeman’s dedication to his patients.”
A native Cincinnatian, Freeman received his medical degree from the UC College of Medicine in 1984. He completed his family medicine training at UC in 1987 and served as chief resident before joining the College of Medicine faculty. Freeman also served for a time as the associate director of the UC Family Medicine Residency Program.
Freeman says that when he began his medical career, he originally wanted to practice in third-world countries, in a more rural area or on a Native American reservation. But when he was a resident, he was assigned to care for 30 patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“These patients are very straightforward, yet also very complex. I loved the challenge of it but also the opportunity to help a group of people who didn’t always have access to quality medical care,” he says.
“My practice is a community. I see my patients through times of happiness, sorrow and struggles,” Freeman continues. “The relationships make life worthwhile, and I make sure my patients know I care about them. That’s why we’re in this profession. You have to genuinely care.”
Lauren Wang, MD, an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and a member of UC Physicians who is a practice partner with Freeman at the UC Health facility, chose to join UC Health and specialize in caring for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities after rotating with Freeman during her residency.
“He is in large part responsible for where I am today. He taught me how to find joy in medicine and human relationship," Wang said. "I am forever grateful for his influence on my development as a clinician and a person.”
During the last two years, Freeman worked closely with Wang and Corey Keeton, MD, assistant professor in the departments of Family and Community Medicine and Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, to create a framework for an interdisciplinary center for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“We have been working diligently to create a model of care that meets the need in our community for a more specialized, patient-centered option for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It is truly beautiful that Tim is able to see our vision coming to fruition,” says Wang, who will serve as the medical director for the center and is committed to honoring Freeman’s legacy as the center develops.
“.. a man who has touched thousands and thousands of lives with a simple philosophy of love and service. A man who suffers for and with his patients, always fighting battles with them, always championing their causes.
Christopher Lewis, MD
In 1999, Christopher Lewis, MD, was a third-year medical student at the College of Medicine and did a rotation at Freeman’s primary care practice, which inspired him to enter family medicine.
“That experience made a permanent mark on my psyche. I wanted to be like Dr. Freeman, with a panel full of patients and families who love him, colleagues and referral networks that respect him and a regional community that depends on him to provide care to those who needed it most,” Lewis says.
After completing his family medicine residency at UC four years later, Lewis joined Freeman’s practice. Lewis, who still sees patients, also is the university’s vice provost for academic programs and interim dean of the UC Graduate School.
Lewis describes Freeman as “a man who has touched thousands and thousands of lives with a simple philosophy of love and service. A man who suffers for and with his patients, always fighting battles with them, always championing their causes. A man who challenges his colleagues to be better doctors, better listeners, better human beings. Dr. Freeman is the doctor's doctor, the one we point to as the example of who we want to be. The one who inspires us all to be better.”
Freeman is a trailblazer in the care of intellectually and developmentally disabled adults, says Philip Diller, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for educational affairs at the College of Medicine and former chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine.
“Caring for this vulnerable population speaks to his heart and underscores his readiness to meet a community need. He did this tirelessly. He is the consummate advocate and readily shares his expertise,” Diller says. “He did all this with little recognition, appreciating more the internal rewards that come from dedicated service and the meaningful impact he had on his patients. He has simply been one of the best clinicians and colleagues to graduate from our programs and has the highest respect of his peers in the Cincinnati medical community.”
In addition to the extraordinary care he has provided his patients, Freeman is a well-known photographer. Several of his photographs hang in conference rooms in the college’s Medical Sciences Building, and his work has been featured in numerous art exhibits in Cincinnati and throughout Ohio during the last several decades.
A self-taught photographer, Freeman specializes in photographing ordinary things in life and capturing and communicating the objects’ dramatic beauty. He also has specialized in landscapes, especially from his many trips to the western U.S. and Alaska. He has two collections featuring patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Pieces from these collections will be displayed in the center.
Donations supporting the Timothy Freeman, MD, Center for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities can be made online at https://foundation.uc.edu/impact/freeman.
Featured photo at top of Dr. Freeman and a patient. Photo courtesy of UC Health.