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Lucas fellowship honors a pediatric cardiology leader by helping train the leaders of tomorrow

Longtime University of Minnesota pediatric cardiologist Russell V. Lucas Jr., M.D., was a great teacher and a generous man—so generous that in the 1970s he and his wife, Pat, opened their home to five orphaned children so they wouldn’t have to be separated from each other.

So it’s not surprising that, before he died in 2001, he established a special fund for training future fellows in his profession.

“He was an educator at heart,” says his daughter Rebecca Lucas. “He loved helping people learn and inspiring people to learn, and he loved patient care. For him it was a way to leave a legacy that had meaning.”

The Russell V. Lucas Fellowship in Pediatric Cardiology supports promising physicians who seek the advanced training needed to provide specialized heart care for children and conduct research to enhance the understanding and practice of pediatric cardiology. The fellowship, in conjunction with the University’s reputation as the cradle of pediatric cardiology, has attracted top physicians since it began.

Elliot Tucker, M.D., a Lucas fellow from 2004 to 2007, is now an interventional pediatric cardiologist at Ochsner Medical Center for Children in New Orleans. “To have the experience of being some place with such a long history in pediatric cardiology was great,” Tucker says.

Longtime University benefactor Larry Bentson helped establish and contributed to the fellowship fund in honor of his close friend.

“Russ was one of the real leaders of pediatric cardiology,” Bentson says. “He was an especially effective teacher.”

Lucas was educated at the University, completing a residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in clinical cardiology and pathology here. During his 32-year tenure as leader of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology, he shaped many lives.

“Dr. Lucas was one of the strongest role models I have had,” says retired pediatric cardiologist and adjunct faculty member Blanton Bessinger, M.D., who completed a fellowship under Lucas. “He always had the children and the families at heart.”

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