At an emotional event on a beautiful late May afternoon, Margaret “Peggy” Bia, MD, bid farewell to Yale School of Medicine peers, students, and former patients. One of the longest-serving nephrologists at YSM, Bia had many memories to share, and many more people to share them with.
Bia organized the event in part to celebrate patients, many of whom had lived with their transplanted kidneys for 10 to over 30 years. She and her co-workers took pains to recognize that the process of medicine was as much about the patient as the doctor, and the number of patients who turned out to help commemorate the day by attending and offering recollections was impressive.
“Dr. Bia changed my life,” said Marilyn E. McNee without hesitation. “It’s been 13 years since my transplant, and she’s always a phone call away. Dr. Bia isn’t like other doctors.” McNee had spent two years on dialysis waiting for the transplant, and said that having the procedure allowed her to live a mostly normal life. She was even promoted to Executive Director of Fairfield’s Housing Authority after the transplant.
Another patient, Robert Fogelberg, offered supportive remarks from the podium, after Bia invited him up to speak. “I was experiencing an autoimmune reaction to my medicine when I saw Dr. Bia,” he said, “it almost killed me. I was on it for almost eight years. She figured out the problem, pulled me off the drug, and the next day, I started getting better. If it weren’t for her I’d be dead.”
“I’ll never forget her standing in the hallway saying ‘I want him off that medication now,’” added Nancy, his wife.
Colleagues were effusive with praise, Richard N. Formica Jr., MD, professor of medicine and surgery (nephrology), attesting to her effectiveness with team-building, and Sanjay Kulkarni, MD, associate professor of surgery (transplant), emphasizing Bia’s focus on kidney donor safety and the commitment to long-term patient relationships that safety requires. William Asch, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and director of pre-transplant operations, also mentioned her pioneering work as an advocate of “living donors,” and a tireless champion of women’s rights.
“If Bia were in the military, she’d be the quiet, forceful general directing things from behind the front, making sure everything ran according to plan,” said Asch. “She didn’t get credit for half the time she dedicated to her job.”
“One of the things I’ve learned from Dr. Bia is the power of gratitude,” added Sharon Klarman, RN, manager of clinical transplant operations, “it silences our egos and destroys selfishness.” Klarman and her co-workers presented Bia with a gift in consideration of her long service to YSM, and to her patients.
Bia reserved the last word for herself. After thanking those people who’d spoken on her behalf, her colleagues, and her husband, she made one final thank you to organ donors who were present and observed: “Organ donors are truly unsung heroes in our society,” and with that, all the attendees stood up and applauded.