Timothy F. Feltes, MD, ’77, Professional Achievement Award Recipient 2020

“I was able to pursue my passion at Kent State, and my educators supported me at a time that I questioned my own abilities.”

After high school, Timothy F. Feltes, MD, attended a small liberal arts college for his freshman year. There, an advisor told him, “the sooner you realize you aren’t getting into medical school, the sooner you can get on with your life.”

Fast forward to today when Dr. Feltes has been a pioneer in advances in pediatric cardiology, a visiting professor and lecturer in more than 30 countries, authored more than 80 peer reviewed manuscripts and chapters and is a former pediatric professor and senior vice chair at The Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. After nearly 20 successful years with The Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Dr. Feltes retired in July. His journey toward this professional success began at Kent State University.

After his freshman year in college, Dr. Feltes transferred to Kent State, which was close to his hometown of Orrville, was more affordable and most importantly, offered the programs he was interested in, including biology. 

“In transferring to Kent State, some may have thought I would get lost at such a big school,” Dr. Feltes said. “But my experience was the complete opposite. The entire biology department embraced and supported me and my goals. Kent State also opened a new door in my ability to learn – I learned how to ask questions and to explore beyond. I learned how to dig deeper. And my classes at Kent State also helped me learn that people are much stronger as a team. This was an important lesson that prepared me for a career in medicine.”

His most influential professors include Lowell Orr, who was a professor in general biology, and was also Dr. Feltes’ advisor. Dr. Feltes noted that Orr’s classes and guidance solidified his interest in medicine. In addition, Dr. Feltes said Keith “Pete” Ewing’s physiology class, which lived up to its reputation as the “make or break class,” lit his fire and his realization that he wanted to become a physician. And even though he didn’t realize it at the time, Ewing’s class also spoke to Dr. Feltes about cardiology, his eventual specialty. 

When asked about his favorite memories of Kent State, it came back to people (as it often does for Golden Flashes). But this memory has a family connection as well.

“As a student at Kent State, I lived at Glenn Morris Apartments,” Dr. Felts said. “My roommate, John Paulich, ended up marrying my sister, Sara. I’d say that qualifies for a life- long connection with a Kent State fellow student!”

After graduating from Kent State in 1977, Dr. Feltes received his medical education at the Medical College of Ohio (Toledo), pediatric training at Emory University (Atlanta) and his pediatric cardiology training at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston). Dr. Feltes is board certified in Pediatrics and Pediatric Cardiology and has been in practice for more than 40 years. He was the first medical director of the Cardiac Intensive Care at Texas Children's Hospital and served in that position from 1991-2001, where he and his team made tremendous strides for children’s cardiac care.

“As the director of what was one of the earliest dedicated cardiac intensive care units for children,” said Dr. Feltes, “my team and our colleagues around the country had the opportunity to develop standardized care and establish guidelines that led to a decline in patient mortality and morbidity. In 1983, the 30-day mortality for children with the most severe form of congenital heart disease was approximately 90%. Working with colleagues from across the United States and around the world, we as a subspecialty reversed these numbers so that by the late 1990s, that mortality rate had declined to approximately 10%.”

Dr. Feltes doesn’t just give back through his profession; he gives back of his time and knowledge as well. Over the years, he has volunteered thousands of hours to organizations such as the National Institute of Health, the American Heart Association and as National Chair of the American Board of Pediatrics – Cardiology Section. He currently serves as the National Chair of the Adult Congenital and Pediatric Cardiology Section of the American College of Cardiology (ACC-ACPC), is the co-director of The Congenital Heart Collaborative, as well as the lead physician for the Pediatric Care Alliance between Nationwide Children's Hospital and Dayton Children's Hospital. He also has extensive service to and involvement with Kent State.

Dr. Feltes has received numerous accolades, including the 2010 Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Society Career Achievement Award, as well as the recipient of the Andy Paxton Endowed Chair in Cardiology. In 2020, he received the Pulse of Columbus Award from the Central Ohio Chapter of the American Heart Association. As a recipient of the Kent State Alumni Professional Achievement Award, Dr. Feltes is altruistic.

“Receiving this award from Kent State is humbling because when I look back at my successes, they have been team success,” Dr. Feltes said. “I celebrate this award not just for myself, but for my team. And I feel validated for the chances and risks I have taken along the way; harder roads lead to greater success and better outcomes for children with heart disease. As a physician, I can’t ask for anything more.”  

Dr. Feltes and his wife, Tami Knight, have two daughters. Thinking of them and current students, his advice to them is to work collaboratively as you can accomplish more as a team than an individual. He also has another piece of advice for students. 

“Follow your dreams,” he said. “If I had given up on my dreams as that first advisor told me to do, I would not have had the opportunities I have had throughout my life and career.”