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Celebrating the leadership, vision, tenacity, and love of community shared by the recipients of the Great Living Cincinnatian Award, presented annually by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber since 1967.
Kotagal, currently a senior fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, comes from a family of physicians and the choice to go into medicine was a natural extension of what she calls her family’s commitment to serve people in need.
Born and raised in Bombay, India, her interest in working with children began her first day of medical school at the University of Bombay.
“I saw a pediatrician holding up a newborn baby,” she said. “I was so struck by his characterization of this newborn and I really thought, ‘That’s what I’m going to do.’ I really, really love and enjoy and care deeply about kids and their potential.”
She graduated from the university in 1970, and an internship with Detroit General Hospital in 1972 brought her stateside. Her first day there, she met her now-husband. They moved to Cincinnati in 1975, when Kotagal took a fellowship at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in neonatal physiology.
Kotagal found several opportunities to contribute at what then was called University Hospital (now UC Medical Center), where she served as the director of nurseries from 1984 to 1993, and director of clinical affairs for the neonatology division from 1988 to 1993. Kotagal currently serves as a professor of pediatrics and gynecology at UC.
At Cincinnati Children’s, she served as the director of the Regional Center for Newborn Intensive Care from 1990 to 1993. These experiences led Kotagal to grow more interested in systems and operations of the hospital and consider how she could do better for their patients.
Dr. Kotagal went back to school, this time to Harvard University’s School of Public Health, earning a master’s of science in epidemiology in 1996. Her career turned toward clinical effectiveness, focusing on the delivery of care and her passion for the health of children.
In 2001, Cincinnati Children’s received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, created for organizations laser-focused on transforming outcomes for patients.
“We began to really act upon our desire to do better for kids,” she said. “I was privileged to partner with many colleagues and partners in the organization to lead that work and really become pioneers in solving these problems … that made both health and healthcare better for kids.”
Recently, she has turned her efforts outward, into the Cincinnati community. Kotagal fostered partnerships with Cincinnati Public Schools, the Cincinnati Health Department and Hamilton County Job & Family Services, to find new ways to deliver care and transform outcomes for the children in our community.
In addition to her role at Cincinnati Children’s, Kotagal is currently a senior fellow at the Institute for Health Care Improvement and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Learning. She has been instrumental in the creation of national and international learning networks that have allowed Cincinnati Children’s to be a catalyst for great outcomes in safety and quality improvement across the world.
She was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Medicine in 2009 and has received both the William Cooper Procter Medallion and the Daniel Drake Award – the highest career medical awards from Cincinnati Children’s and the UC College of Medicine, respectively. She has served on several boards, published several scholarly articles and proudly serves as the pediatric consultant for the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.
“Say yes if you can” is her life motto. “There are lots of opportunities that come to you and sometimes we are more cautious than we need to be. …Those opportunities open doors and visions and views and learning. When you say yes, the possibilities are different and wonderful and you can make a difference.”
Kotagal and her husband enjoy hiking, good food and friends. She has two daughters. A self-described foodie. Kotagal has taught Indian cooking classes and enjoys traveling to food destinations
Recipients are selected from candidates by the Cincinnati Chamber’s senior council based on the following criteria: – Community service – Business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level – Leadership – Awareness of the needs of others – Distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization