When I got word from a friend Frank had passed away, I sat speechless and numb. I met him early on in SHMs history, and right from the get-go, I knew he had a rare combination of intellect, confidence, and folksiness. I liked him the minute we shook hands.
I always needled him about his speaking voice too. Mellifluous and brimming, he could light up a room. I continually told him he missed his calling as a broadcast journalist. Of course, his rejoinder was always non-verbal. He just looked at me and sarcastically smiled, as if to say, “that routine again.” Yup Frank, again.
I, along with countless others, will miss not seeing him. What a tragic loss for his family, community, and our own SHM extended tribe.
As a tribute, I asked some of his colleagues to pass on their reminiscences. They will give you a sense of Frank’s breadth and depth as an individual. Additionally, if you wish, please leave comments at the bottom of the post as a further tribute to him.
In Memoriam: Franklin A. Michota, Jr
Chris Whinney, MD, Chair, Hospital Medicine, Cleveland Clinic:
I vividly remember the mini-cassette answering machine message I received in early 2001, when I was in the throes of my first (painful) week-on, week-on job as a hospitalist in the early years…
“Hi, I’m calling for Chris Whinney, this is Frank Michota from the Cleveland Clinic…”
I promptly wrote down his name as he referenced my interest in a position at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic in hospital medicine:
I began to think: “Japanese?” When we finally spoke I immediately pictured a second generation man of Asian descent, impressed that he had no trace of an accent whatsoever;
When I finally met him I realized the error of my bias…but this was the start of an amazing relationship…one that ended way too soon this past Saturday night.
Frank Michota Jr., the founder of hospital medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, the man who hired me in 2001, the man who was an early thought leader, mentor and colleague to hundreds of physicians, students, residents, and more, lost his life to metastatic colon cancer at the age of 47.
There is a void in our collective hearts today…
Frank was an Ohio guy…he did his undergrad and med school at Ohio State, and came to Cleveland Clinic for his residency in 1993. After his chief year in 1997, he was asked by the GIM chair, Rich Lang, to take on the hospital scheduling and to start working as a hospitalist…just about a year after the Wachter/Goldman article.
He served as section head for 10 years, and was integral to the growth of the program from three hospitalists at first (including Shaun Frost) to over 100 hospitalists and nocturnists as of July of 2015.
I could wax poetic on all of Frank’s academic accomplishments (innumerable publications, presentations, co-chair of board review course, the Perioperative Summit, textbook editorships, etc), but Frank was way more than a long CV…his magnetism, eloquence and passion for hospital medicine was evident for everyone he met.
Some examples of this (and I appreciate the following writers to allow me to share):
Shaun Frost, MD, SFHM, former president, SHM:
“Frank is one of few people who have had a significant impact on my career – a textbook example of a true mentor.
Frank gave me professional opportunities that I would not have had access to without his influence. He introduced me to important people in the field of hospital medicine that additionally assisted with my career development. Perhaps most important, Frank encouraged me to take risks because he believed in my abilities, and saw potential in my future.
Frank made me want to be better, and he set an excellent example to emulate as he was the absolute best in the many areas in which he excelled. He was always giving of his time, and always willing to offer meaningful guidance and support.
Any positive influence on the specialty of hospital medicine that I may hope to lay claim to is in part due to the guiding influence that Frank Michota had on my early career development.
Beyond being a terrific colleague, Frank was a great person, a true friend, and a really fun guy to just hang out with – I have fond memories of travelling with him to early hospital medicine and perioperative medicine conferences, and also remember great times when our families would get together for weekend barbeques and other recreation.”
Brian Harte, MD, SFHM, President-Elect, SHM:
“I would say that as far back as 2002, Frank recognized the potential for Cleveland Clinic hospitalist physicians to champion change…[f]rom the standpoint of my career, he quickly recognized where my strengths were when I came here out of community practice, and connected me to leaders and resources to set goals and achieve them. Frank appreciated the challenges of coming to the Cleveland Clinic and offered a guiding hand, checking on me often in those first few months. At the same time, he was not above asking for my suggestions or counsel on how to make the section better. When we established the first regional program, he recognized the potential of what we could accomplish, and it was his guidance and support of our vision that really opened the door for us to be a multi-hospital department. Above all, he was a dedicated father and a good person, and I recall so well being driven around Cleveland on a snowy night in January just talking about family and career balance that was always so important to him.”
Amir Jaffer, MD, MBA, SFHM, Division Chief, Rush University Medical Center:
“Frank was a true visionary, long before hospitalists became mainstream within Perioperative Care. He envisioned hospitalists evaluating and managing medical aspects of surgical patients in the hospital, and was always seeking to advance the field in innovative ways…I can still remember the wise words he would repeat to me, saying ‘Amir, figure out a way to do things even better, study the outcomes from our clinic and write about them’…Frank was a charismatic individual, and indubitably a transformative figure through my hospitalist career…Frank, your absence will be felt not by your family and friends but also by the entire medical community. I know your legacy and what you have done for the field of hospital medicine will live on!”
Jim Pile, MD, SFHM, Vice Chair, Faculty Development, Cleveland Clinic:
“Frank’s impact on the department, and on all who knew him for any length of time, was indelible… there were few individuals in the early days of hospital medicine with his depth and breadth of vision for what the new specialty could, and should, become…people such as Bob Wachter, John Nelson and Win Whitcomb are recognized as the pioneers of the specialty, but Frank also deserves to be remembered as one of the small group of those who truly shaped the discipline early on. I will remember him as one of the most incisive and logical thinkers I’ve ever known, and learned a great deal from his impressive communication skills, his mastery of time management, and his leadership strategies. The legendary journalist Hunter Thompson eulogized his friend Carl Lazlo by saying “He was one of a kind. He stomped on the terra,” and although his life was not long when measured in years, that statement applies equally to Frank. He will be missed, but his memory will live on.”
Daniel Brotman, MD, SFHM, Division chief, Johns Hopkins:
“Coming out of residency, I knew I wanted to be a hospitalist, but this was based simplistically on my desire to take care of inpatients and teach. When I visited CCF to interview for my first post-residency position, Frank hosted me for the day, and I felt an immediate connection with Frank’s vision for the program and the field of hospital medicine. This was corroborated by Natalie Correia’s statement during my interview with her: “Frank is a gifted administrator”. During my five years at CCF, Frank taught me a ton about hospital medicine, how to be an administrator, how to give a good presentation, the importance of networking with other hosptialists, and how to keep cool when I got hot-headed. He was always in my corner and always gave sound advice. I owe much of my career’s trajectory to the amazing start he gave me. “
As for me, I am indebted to Frank for his belief in me, when he asked me to join in 2001; when he provided feedback on my first poster at the (then) NAIP meeting in Philadelphia in 2002; my first external speaking opportunity at my first SHM Midwest meeting in Chicago in 2003, and when he asked me in 2005 to assume the role of hospital medicine fellowship director. He gave me a chance to excel, as he did with Shaun, Jim, Amir, Brian, and Daniel, and they all moved on to leadership in our growing field (well, at least Jim returned to us after a few years). He was passionate about teaching, and in fact in his last few months gave spontaneous case presentations at grand rounds when a speaker was a no-show. The effort he engaged with fellow staff, residents and students was remarkable; in fact the last week of his life he was giving a colleague of ours feedback on her upcoming local SHM chapter presentation.
Most of all, he was a man who loved life…it was evident in all he did…my vivid memories of playing paintball with his boys and him in the fields of Ohio was a blast…
Frank planted the seed in 1997 that became a giant Oak tree today in Northeast Ohio…now when the winds blow and the seasons change, the Oak may lose some of its leaves, but its trunk will stay strong thanks to the visionary who watered the tender sapling and cared for it well…in his last days, as many can imagine, he only had glimpses of this man, but we all appreciated his suffering, and share in our relief that his suffering has now ended….
Sleep well my friend…we will miss you…see you someday soon…
Frank’s father, Dr. Franklin Michota, Sr. has established a medical scholarship in his name for students at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. Donations should be addressed to:
Dr. Franklin Michota, Jr., Scholarship Fund
c/o First Federal of Lakewood
36839 Detroit Road
Avon, Ohio 44011
Thank you in advance for remembering Frank in this way.
Top Left (with mustache): Jim Pile
Second row from top, third in: Shaun Frost
Second row from top, third in: Amir Jaffer
Third row from bottom on left: Chris Whinney
Third row from bottom, 6th from left: Daniel Brotman
Bottom Row, third from right: Frank Michota