Newsletter: Alumni Spotlight

Mike Farrell, MD, Awarded with Daniel Drake Medal


On October 21, the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine awarded its highest honor — the Daniel Drake Medal — to Michael Farrell, MD. Mike has been at Cincinnati Children’s for 49 years and is known for many things: an outstanding clinician, inventor, researcher, leader, mentor, and friend.

“We are all here by accident,” he says. “I came here as a resident for two years and stayed for a career.”

Mike, the son of Irish-Catholic parents, started his journey living in Austria where his father was stationed post-World War II as part of the occupation forces. After five years, the family, which also included Mike’s sister, returned to the States, settling in Philadelphia.

Mike credits eight years of Jesuit education with having a profound effect on his sense of social justice. “They believed in service to others, that each of us has an obligation to society,” he explains. “It was an important element in my life.”

By the time he got to college, he knew he wanted to be a doctor. He earned his undergrad degree and was accepted into medical school, but that summer, he got his draft notice. Vietnam was calling. He worked out a deal with the Navy that allowed him to graduate from Jefferson Medical College in 1970 and complete his internship at Harrisburg Polyclinic Hospital in exchange for three years of service (as opposed to the usual two).

“I spent one year as a general medical officer with the Marines in a small camp with a reconnaissance battalion on the less-inhabited side of Okinawa, then came back and did two years at Newport Naval Hospital in Rhode Island,” he says. By 1974, the draft had ended, and many soldiers, including Mike, were coming home. He originally planned to go back to Pennsylvania but soon found that there were few residency slots available, especially in his field of interest—pediatrics. Then he learned of an opening at Cincinnati Children’s.

“I came here and met Bill Schubert,” he recalls. “And the rest is history. He was the inspiration for all that followed.”

Mike joined the College of Medicine faculty in 1979 and has held numerous leadership positions at Cincinnati Children’s, including Pediatric Residency Program director (1979 to 2001), medical director of home health care (1988 to 2017), chief of staff (1993 to 2015) and associate chair of clinical affairs for the Department of Pediatrics (1993 to 2015).

A highly admired and inspirational mentor and teacher, Mike has impacted hundreds of young physicians in training. He developed many combined residency programs at Cincinnati Children’s and the College of Medicine, including medicine and pediatrics, pediatrics and physical medicine and rehabilitation, pediatrics and genetics, and a triple-board-certified program in pediatrics, psychiatry and child psychiatry.

Cincinnati Children’s hosts the “Mike Farrell Annual Lecture” Pediatric Grand Rounds. This year, the presenter was Adam Mezoff, MD, who trained in our residency and fellowship programs and is now the vice president and chief medical officer at Dayton Children’s. His lecture, titled “Lesson’s Learned from a Great Mentor and How it Translates into Physician Leadership,” provides a great description of the teacher and provider that many of our other alumni are so familiar with. Mezoff talks about the many “Farrell-isms” that are engrained in many of our alumni- phrases such as “take care of the child first and deal with the rest of the stuff later.” Current Chief of Staff, Patty Manning-Courtney, MD, provides the introduction for this lecture and shares a parent comment that says “There is no better doctor than Mike Farrell… all of Cincinnati Children’s medical staff should have to learn to be just like him Patty laments that this is what everyone really is trying to do all the time.

Mike is the plain-spoken champion for children and a beloved teacher and mentor for thousands of physicians across the globe. He says “I owe my biggest thanks to my wife, Becky, and my family. I could not have accomplished what I did without their blessing and understanding.”

We congratulate Mike on this award and if you would like to send in a note of congratulations, please email



Career Achievements

Mike Farrell, MD, has made many contributions to the field of pediatric gastroenterology and primary care. Here are just a few of his accomplishments:

  • Among the first to study the relationship between infantile apnea and gastroesophageal reflux
  • Helped define the hepatobiliary complications associated with parenteral nutrition
  • Participated in important studies defining vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus requirements in infant parenteral nutrition solutions
  • Invented the Farrell Valve Enteral Gastric Pressure Relief System, aka the Farrell bag—a disposable plastic bag that is connected to vent a feeding tube, which is now used nationwide.
  • Developed, with Ed Brissie, the manifold system for infusion of multiple solutions simultaneously in a sterile fashion
  • Presented with the 2007 Murray Davidson Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
  • Received a 2012 Educational Achievement Award from Cincinnati Children’s
  • Served the AAP’s Section on Gastroenterology and Nutrition as a member of the executive committee and chair of the education committee
  • Chairs the History Committee at Cincinnati Children’s, which is devoted to preserving the stories and artifacts of the medical center for future generations

Video links:




Mike reunited with former pediatric resident Erica Liebelt, MD, at the alumni weekend in October. Erica was honored with the UC College of Medicine Distinguished Alumna Award