Medical Professional Publications

In Memoriam: Jo Craenen, MD

(From the October 2017 Issue of MedStat)

Written by Mark W. Hall, MD, Division Chief, Critical Care

It is with a heavy heart that I share that Dr. Jo Craenen passed away in late September. Some of you had the pleasure of working with Dr. Craenen during her lengthy tenure at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Some of you never had the opportunity to meet her. Regardless, we all feel the impact of her presence in the intensive care unit every day.

Dr. Josepha Craenen was born in Belgium and grew up during World War II. She excelled as a student and received her undergraduate and medical degrees in Louvain, Belgium in the 1950s. She completed her training in pediatrics in Belgium and in Buffalo, New York, where she stayed to complete a fellowship in pediatric cardiology.

In 1967 she joined the faculty of what was then Columbus Children’s Hospital in the Division of Pediatric Cardiology in the Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. She worked at what would become Nationwide Children's Hospital for the entirety of her faculty career from 1967 until her retirement in 2013.

She was truly one of the “founding mothers” of the field of pediatric critical care medicine. She took care of critically ill children before intensive care units existed. With tremendous energy, dedication, and ingenuity Dr. Craenen and her colleagues developed the PICU as we know it at Nationwide Children's Hospital, combining astute clinical skills with emerging technologies to the benefit of critically ill patients with and without heart disease. As Critical Care Medicine became a discipline and division in its own right, Jo Craenen was its matriarch in Columbus, ultimately forgoing her cardiology practice to focus on the PICU full time. Working alongside junior faculty with names like John Mahan and Karen McCoy, Dr. Craenen carved out a clinical and academic space that has since grown to encompass three intensive care units totaling more than 70 beds and more than 20 faculty dedicated to the care of critically ill children.  

Jo was the recipient of numerous awards throughout her career including the Department of Pediatrics Teaching Award (1999), the Grant Morrow III Teaching Award (2001), and the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Lifetime Achievement Award (2009). She was, however, not one to seek the spotlight. She was content to provide outstanding clinical care to her patients for whom she was a fierce advocate.

It is no accident that the award given annually by the Division of Critical Care Medicine to the senior resident who most excels in the provision of comprehensive and compassionate care in the PICU is named the “Jo Craenen Golden Hour Award”. Whether working in the PICU or on the Pediatric Analgesia and Sedation Service, which Jo championed during the latter part of her faculty time, Dr. Craenen was a perpetual role model for students, residents, fellows, and faculty alike.

In addition to her love of her patients and her colleagues, Dr. Craenen had a deep and abiding love for her friends, her family and the outdoors.

Please join me in remembering and honoring a life dedicated to excellence and service to others.

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