UC Day of Giving kicks off with gift to the College of Medicine

Brad Warner says time at UC was a life-changing experience

You never know what might come from being given a chance in your chosen field.

When he came to the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine for fellowship and residency in the late 1980s, Brad Warner got that chance.

Today, Brad Warner, MD, is the Jessie L. Ternberg, MD, PhD Distinguished Professor of Pediatric Surgery in the Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He’s also an attending surgeon at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, recently stepping down as chief surgeon.

But back in 1982, he was in his early 20s and arrived in Cincinnati for his general surgery residency.

A lifelong and life-changing relationship

WUMS/DOS Dr. Brad Warner 9/26/2017

Brad Warner, MD.

“Because I went to a six-year medical school right out of high school, I finished when I was 23, which is several years younger than a typical medical school graduate,” Warner notes. “So being able to find a mentor within the college was pretty important to me.”

Josef E. Fischer, MD was the head of the UC Department of Surgery at that time and would come to be known as one of the great surgical minds of the 20th and 21st centuries. In what Warner calls “a bit of serendipity,” he had done some research in medical school connected to Fischer’s research on gastrointestinal surgery. “During my interview for the general surgery residency, we started talking about that, and he asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee. At that point, I knew that we were going to sync. So that was really kind of an ‘aha’ moment for me,” said Warner.

The chance that changed it all

That cup of coffee was the start of a life-changing relationship that continued until Fischer died in 2021. “I really learned how to carry myself and how to take care of patients. That was a big thing with Dr. Fischer. It was all about devotion to the patient.” He was committed to excellence, integrity, hard work and scholarship.

I also learned the importance of professionalism and interpersonal relationships during my training, how you treat your colleagues and how you can improve patient care by making sure the doors are wide open for people to talk to each other,” notes Warner.

“It all goes back to Dr. Fischer taking a chance on this young kid from a medical school no one had ever heard of,” he said. 

Group of people wearing white doctor coats

Warner's UC residency class.

Warner went on to become chief resident in his program at University Hospital, now UC Medical Center. Following residency, he completed a fellowship in pediatric surgery at Cincinnati Children’s.

Warner met his wife Barbara at the College of Medicine when he was a resident, and she was a medical student (she is now the chief of neonatology at St. Louis Children’s Hospital). One of their daughters recently graduated from the College of Medicine.

The Warners left Cincinnati for St. Louis after 25 years, but the time spent here made a significant impact. They decided “it would be important to give back to the institutions that have really made a big difference in our lives,” he said.

UC had such an impact on me. It taught me to be the kind of doctor that I am.

Brad Warner, MD

The Brad W. Warner, MD Endowed Chair in the Department of Surgery

“UC had such an impact on me. It taught me to be the kind of doctor that I am,” he said. And to recognize and celebrate that, Warner decided to make a planned estate gift, creating a new endowed chair position.

When asked why he created the Brad W. Warner, MD, Endowed Chair in the Department of Surgery, Dr. Warner expressed that so much of who he is now as a physician he learned at the College of Medicine and Department of Surgery.

“My foundation as a physician has so many elements from the College of Medicine,” he said. “There’s the appreciation for academics and science, and how you can be a clinician scientist or surgeon scientist, and be able to do both of those things, plus collaborate with people and how to make it work.”

Warner’s endowed chair supports the general surgery residency director, which reflects the impact his residency had on him.

“This is an incredibly generous and thoughtful gift,” said David A. Gerber, MD, the Christian R. Holmes Professor of Surgery and Department of Surgery chair. “Most surgeons, thinking back on their training, will remember the positive impact and influence their residency director had on their professional development and subsequent career. Yet these individuals aren’t always recognized the same way that a provider is acknowledged by a grateful patient, or a researcher is for their scientific achievement.” 

An endowed gift means long-term support

Warner as a resident

Warner during his time as a resident.

Warner’s gift creates an endowed chair in perpetuity, meaning it will continue long after he is gone.

“The UC Department of Surgery is cutting edge and is really doing great innovative work that allows the university to bring in the brightest and best medical students into their residency,” he said.

Finally, Warner wants to let people know that graduates are grateful, “and I hope that by doing this, others will step back and go ‘wow, Brad’s doing this. We can do this too.’”

“I'm hoping that it really accelerates and improves giving back to the Department of Surgery,” he continues. “I've got a lot of friends and people from my Cincinnati time, and it makes a statement to them that we are committing something sizable because we are grateful for what we have gotten. Leaving a legacy in your name in the department you trained in really says a lot.”

The influence UC had on Warner continues to be reflected back at him in St. Louis. “I just stepped down this year as the chief surgeon, and the individual who took my place was a former UC residency alumnus who worked in my lab when he was a resident. And now he is my boss. Full circle moment for sure.”

Featured image at top: CARE/Crawley building. Photo/Chris Radcliffe for the UC Foundation

Next Now

With its focus on innovation and impact, Next, Now: The Campaign for Cincinnati is where ambition meets action. At the University of Cincinnati and UC Health, we’re driven by next; thinking bolder and dreaming bigger to create the tomorrow we envision, today. Learn more at nextnow.uc.edu.

Headshot of Jenny Hudson

Jenny Hudson

Senior Advancement Writer , UC Foundation

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