Medical School’s Dr. Flance passes away

| News Editor

Dr. I. Jerome Flance, physician, professor and community activist passed away last Friday, at the age of 98.

Flance died of old age, and left a long legacy, which was commemorated at his funeral this Tuesday.

Flance was heavily connected to Washington University throughout his life. He moved from New York to St. Louis to attend the University, receving a bachelor’s degree in 1931 and a medical degree in 1935.

After performing his residencies, his involvement at the University continued, as he became a renowned professor and physician at the University’s medical school.

When Flance retired, he had taught for more than 60 years at the medical school and had become a professor emeritus of clinical medicine.

“He was an extraordinary—and I use that word carefully—truly extraordinary teacher, who not only practiced medicine as no one else whom I had ever seen, but could also teach it and provide a role model better than anyone I have ever known,” said Kenneth Ludmerer, professor of medicine.

In addition, he was also a well-respected doctor, specializing in the lungs. Flance became the director of the Wash. U. Pulmonary Service at St. Louis Hospitals.

His colleagues noticed his great work at the medical school. “He was the finest physician I have personally known,” Ludmerer said. “He was a diagnostic genius. He had [an] extraordinary ability to obtain information from patients and to make complicated decisions, especially when the course of what to do was uncertain, as it frequently is in medicine.”

His contributions are not only proven by his accomplishments, but also by his multi-faceted passions.

“He had an extraordinary passion for medicine and passion for people that is very difficult to describe […] He loved medicine. You could not be around him and not be inspired by what a wonderful career this is,” Ludmerer said.

Ludmerer stressed Flance’s devotion to his patients. “I was coming home from a trip […] and I passed by the medical center. It’s about 11 on a Friday night and I walked through the emergency room to get to my office. And there …is [Dr. Flance], in his mid-eighties at the time, comforting a patient and the patient’s family,” Ludmerer said.

Many awards have been given to Flance for his contributions to the medical school. In 1994, Flance received the 2nd Century Award, which according to the University’s Web site is annually awarded to “individuals whose long-term commitment and participation truly have made a difference, enabling the School of Medicine to look to the future with strength and confidence.” In 2002, he also was given an honorary degree for a doctorate of humanities at the University.

The awards have not only simply been given to Flance, however; many awards have actually been named after him as well. In 1976, the Jerome Flance Visiting Lectureship was created in order for the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine to bring a physician to campus for several days to hold activities with students.

Furthermore, without Flance, fundraising efforts would not be nearly as successful.

“He has raised—through grateful patients and friends and colleagues who have been grateful to him and inspired by him —tens of millions of dollars for the Wash. U. School of Medicine,” Ludmerer said.

Flance also aided the larger St. Louis community, ensuring the development of the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood as the school’s special associate for community redevelopment.

He received an award from Big Brothers Big Sisters for assisting with the expansion of Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He also made the first home care program in which care is provided to patients in their homes instead of in hospitals.

Other of Flance’s community involvements include founding the St. Louis Physicians Against Air Pollution group.

Flance was additionally awarded the Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award for his contributions to his community.

Colleagues have many other positive memories of Flance. “I can tell you that I personally always felt better in [Flance’s] presence no matter what problems or concerns of my own I might have,” Ludmerer said.

Ludmerer noted Flance’s love for the University. “He deeply loved Washington University,” Ludmerer said. “He would routinely wear his green Washington University blazer—that was his favorite item of clothing.”

Michael Holtzman, director of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, wrote about Jerry’s optimistic outlook on life in his eulogy:

“Jerry was a true believer, and his glass was always half-full. Each of his quests was underlined with a champagne sparkle and a twinkle that was at the same time engaging and unyielding.”

His wife, son, daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren survive Dr. Flance.