Defying the expectations of loved ones, Tim Flynn, MD, and Marian Limacher, MD, wanted to pave their own paths when deciding to attend medical school in the 1970s — the first in their families to do so.
“I knew I wanted to be a doctor in the 10th grade; it was important for me to do something where I could help people,” said Flynn, a UF College of Medicine emeritus professor who served as senior associate dean for clinical affairs for the college and chief medical officer for UF Health Shands from 2010 to 2018.
Growing up in an Irish Catholic household, his mother wanted him to become a priest.
Limacher, an emerita professor and former senior associate dean for faculty affairs and professional development at the College of Medicine, shared similar thoughts. Many suggested she become a nurse.
“I thought, ‘I think I’ll be a doctor instead,’” she said. “That was what I wanted to do.”
After committing decades to improving the lives of patients in Gainesville, the couple decided shortly after they both retired that they would support the next generation of physicians training at the UF College of Medicine. They recently established the Timothy C. Flynn, MD, and Marian C. Limacher, MD, Medical Scholarship Endowment fund to support those who will be the first in their families to attend medical school.
“Our families couldn’t cover the whole cost, which is certainly a lot less than tuition is today,” said Flynn, who joined the U.S. Navy and received a health professions scholarship to cover the cost of his medical education. “One thing that’s stuck with me over the years of teaching is hearing about how big of a financial burden attending medical school can be for some students.”
Flynn graduated from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in 1974, while Limacher graduated from St. Louis University School of Medicine in 1977. Shortly thereafter, she began her residency training at Baylor, where her chief resident — Flynn’s former roommate — introduced the two on a blind date. They went out for a while before things fizzled.
“He just stopped calling,” Limacher said.
Having parted ways, Flynn and Limacher continued their residency training in Houston in different hospital systems — but serendipitously, their jobs brought them
together a couple of years later. Limacher was working the overnight shift at her hospital and received a call regarding the transfer of a patient. Flynn was on the
other line to discuss the case with her.
“It was a little awkward,” Limacher said. “But we definitely had a longer chat than those calls usually last. And all transfer calls are recorded, so somewhere in the
VA archives, there’s a recording of that conversation.”
Flynn and Limacher started dating again and got married a year later, in 1980. In 1983, they welcomed their daughter to the
world. In 1984, their son completed their family. That same year, Flynn received a call from a former colleague, Edward M. Copeland, MD, then a professor and chair of the department of surgery at the UF College of Medicine, to offer them both jobs with UF Health. They said yes.
In their more than 30 years in Gainesville, the couple held several important leadership positions while raising two children.
Before his retirement in 2018, Flynn served as chief of surgery at the Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center and was involved with the VA nationally,
was chief medical officer at UF Health Shands and served as the College of Medicine’s senior associate dean for clinical affairs. He also served as program director for the surgery residency and as associate dean for graduate medical education.
Limacher, who retired in 2019, was chief of noninvasive cardiology and chief of cardiology at the VA and professor of medicine in the division of cardiovascular medicine. She was named senior associate dean for faculty affairs and professional development at the College of Medicine in 2010.
“It meant a lot to me to be a leader in the first formal office to support college faculty,” she said. “Nothing like that had existed before.”
Limacher was also a principal investigator for the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-standing clinical study that continues today.
Both Flynn and Limacher are recipients of the College of Medicine’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Flynn said he couldn’t have thought of a better career than the one he had.
“I’m happiest thinking about all the young men and women I trained as surgeons,” he said. “Sometimes, they’ll
tell me, ‘I have a voice in my head that sounds like you that tells me what to do in this situation.’”
They both said establishing a $1 million scholarship endowment was an important way to give back to the profession, the same way they received support while in school.
“We hope the recipients pass it on when they are in a position to help others and continue that cycle of giving back to those who need it,” Flynn said.
This story originally ran in the Winter 2021 issue of the Doctor Gator newsletter.