September 26, 2013 | Seven women set out to honor the UAMS doctor who gave their children the gift of life. Six years later, with gifts from more than 1,500 current and former patients and family members, this idea became a reality.
Paul Wendel, M.D., a professor in the UAMS Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, was invested in front of family, friends and colleagues in a Sept. 24 ceremony at UAMS with an endowed chair in his name in maternal-fetal medicine. A large crowd was on hand to pay tribute to Wendel and his many contributions to the field and to families of Arkansas.
“He cares about his family, cares about his patients and he’s an excellent educator,” said Curtis Lowery, M.D., professor and chairman of the UAMS Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, who has worked with Wendel for 19 years. “What could be better for an endowed chair?”
George Wendel, M.D., assistant to the executive director of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, also paid tribute to his younger brother. The brothers were able to work together during their residencies. The elder Wendel said that while this wasn’t a chair given in honor of someone who made a great discovery or cured a disease, it’s one given to someone who was dedicated to providing the best care possible for his patients. He noted his pride in his brother for always caring more for the individuals he was treating rather than the disease.
Judy Adams, who helped with fundraising efforts for the chair, spoke as a grateful grandmother. Her daughter started having complications when she was 23 weeks into her pregnancy and saw Wendel.
“You knew he would do everything in his power to give us a healthy baby,” Adams said, who also thanked Wendel for her grandson, Noah, delivered at 35 weeks and brought Noah up to say thank you as well.
Wendel thanked those in attendance, especially his family and UAMS colleagues.
“It’s been a team effort. There are a cast of people who helped me get here. I’m just the front for it and their efforts,” Wendel said. “When God first brought me here, I didn’t understand it, but I found a great group of people and a great university.”
A 20-year veteran at UAMS, Wendel graduated from St. Louis University with a Bachelor of Science in biology in 1984. He went on to attend the University of Missouri at Columbia School of Medicine. He then completed his residency in OB/GYN and a two-year fellowship in high-risk obstetrics at the University of Texas Southwestern at Parkland Hospital.
During Wendel’s career at UAMS, the maternal-fetal medicine program has grown and developed into a nationally-recognized department. Wendel has been able to influence not only countless Arkansans through delivering healthy babies, but also through teaching future physicians.
“As a teacher, I’m proud to see my students grow into great physicians,” he said.
Being from a family of educators, Wendel has a great passion for teaching, reflected in his earning of the Red Sash Award for teaching medical students for 17 consecutive years.
Thanks to the initial efforts from a small group of grateful patients, Wendel’s legacy will live on at UAMS with the endowed chair.
“It’s the highest honor you can receive at an academic medical center,” Wendel said. “When you have an endowment, it shows the value of the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Department. The program should never be about one person, but it’s an honor that the endowment will live on in my name.”