After building Norton Children’s Pulmonology from scratch, Nemr S. Eid, M.D., retires

After four decades, Dr. Eid is retiring, having built a team at Norton Children’s Pulmonology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, that is nationally recognized for cystic fibrosis and pulmonology care.

When Nemr S. Eid, M.D., arrived in Louisville in 1988, he was the city’s only pediatric pulmonologist. For 10 years, he was on call around the clock, every day of the week, for children with asthma, cystic fibrosis or other lung conditions.

His motto was “The patient remains first, always,” which meant his days started early and ended late.

Four decades later, Dr. Eid is retiring, having built a team at Norton Children’s Pulmonology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, that is nationally recognized for cystic fibrosis and pulmonology care.

Even though leaving a job he loves is difficult, Dr. Eid said he’s comforted knowing patients will continue to receive outstanding care, thanks in part to his work building Norton Children’s Pulmonology.

“I was engaged in creating something. This was my first and last job. I wasn’t looking for a promotion. I was just working for 35 years so the program would blossom.”

A dream to help his country is altered by strife

Dr. Eid grew up in a small village in the mountains of Lebanon. Tragedy drew him to a career in medicine and pulmonology. Before Dr. Eid was born, his older brother Jameel, who was two, choked on a peanut. His parents rushed to get him to a medical clinic some distance away, but Jameel died on the way there.

As a child, Dr. Eid saw how deeply his brother’s death affected his parents. He determined to become a doctor and open a clinic in his hometown, so other parents would not face the same heartbreak.

Dr. Eid’s hopes of returning home to practice medicine were shattered when Lebanon became engulfed in a civil war in 1975 and his village was razed. However, he was still determined to become a pulmonologist.

After completing a pediatric pulmonology fellowship at the State University of New York in Brooklyn, Dr. Eid came to Louisville, where he became medical director of Norton Children’s Pulmonology, and division chief of pediatric pulmonology and professor of pediatrics at the UofL School of Medicine.

“There was no pediatric pulmonology clinic. It was fertile ground to build what I always thought I’d do in Lebanon,” Dr. Eid said.

Dr. Eid’s first case, however, was a patient he could not help. Dr. Eid was asked to see a 14-year-old boy hospitalized with worsening inflammation in his lungs. The boy’s lungs did not respond to the best treatments available at the time, and he died.

Now, the 14-year-old would be eligible for a lung transplant, but all Dr. Eid could do at the time was care for the boy as best he could and help the boy’s family come to terms with what was happening. It was a lesson in humility and compassion Dr. Eid said he never forgot.

Building Norton Children’s Pulmonology

Ten years after Dr. Eid arrived in Louisville as the sole pediatric pulmonologist, Ronald L. Morton, M.D., joined him. Adrian R. O’Hagan, M.D., became Norton Children’s third pediatric pulmonologist in 2010. Scott Bickel joined in 2016, and Erica L. Stevens, M.D., joined Norton Children’s Pulmonology in 2020.

After a seed for the Cystic Fibrosis Program was planted in 1990, the idea has grown into both a fully staffed pediatric program and another program for adults. Today the pediatric program includes four physicians, two advanced practice providers, two respiratory therapists, a nutritionist, a licensed clinical social worker and pharmacist. The adult program, now part of UofL Health, has two physicians, a nurse, respiratory therapist, nutritionist, social worker and pharmacist.

The growing program under Dr. Eid has received national recognition. Norton Children’s Pulmonology Cystic Fibrosis Program was designated as one of the top five pediatric Cystic Fibrosis Care Centers by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in 2006. Norton Children’s received its first ranking for pediatric pulmonology from U.S. News & World Report in 2010. Norton Children’s is chosen by more patients in Louisville and Southern Indiana for pediatric pulmonology care than any other provider.

In 2013, University of Louisville and Norton Children’s received accreditation to start a fellowship program, and began training physicians to become the next generation of pediatric pulmonology specialists. The first fellow, Scott G. Bickel, M.D., joined the team in 2016 and is now medical director of respiratory care at Norton Children’s Pulmonology.

In addition to working with patients, Dr. Eid has also become an internationally known specialist with expertise in asthma and infantile wheezing. Dr. Eid has developed web-based asthma teaching modules for primary care physicians and specialist; written more than 200 articles, abstracts, book chapters and monographs related to respiratory health; and spoken at medical conferences around the world.

Norton Children’s Pulmonology

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Even though he worked long hours throughout his career, Dr. Eid made a pledge he would always be home for dinner with his wife and three children. They would talk at the table, and his children saw their father’s passion for medicine. All three have followed in his footsteps and become doctors, even though Dr. Eid urged them to pursue their own paths and follow their dreams.

Mark, his oldest, is a surgical resident at Dartmouth. Ryan is finishing an allergy immunology fellowship at the University of Virginia and will be working with an allergy group in Boston. And Sabine, his youngest, is an allergy immunology fellow at the University of Colorado in Denver.

Now that he is retiring, Dr. Eid plans to spend time with family, play doubles tennis with his wife, and continue to serve, when needed and if called upon.