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Toni Ganzel is the dean of the University of Louisville Medical School.

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2021 Most Admired Woman — Education

Dean of University of Louisville Medical School
Family: Husband Brian and adult daughters, Natalie and Paige
Neighborhood: Blankenbaker Road area

When Toni M. Ganzel was a young girl, she didn’t want to be a doctor or a dean of a medical school. She wanted to be Wonder Woman and save lives in red high-heel boots. Plan B was to be a flight attendant once she realized that Diana Prince was fictional. It was in seventh grade that she fell in love with science. No matter what direction she has gone professionally, she always knew she wanted to learn, lead, and serve others.

What other careers did you consider besides medicine?

In early college, I wanted to be a high school biology teacher and cheerleading coach. As I was taking more sophisticated sciences, I wasn’t sure if teaching high school science would be challenging enough. I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll go into research.’ Somebody said, ‘Why don’t you take the MCAT and see how you do?’ I thought, ‘What the heck? I’ll see how I do.’ I took it and did well, and I thought, ‘What the heck? I’ll just apply [to medical school].’ I got in, and then I thought, ‘What the heck? I might as well just go.’ I tell women today, ‘That is not a path I recommend for people now. You need to be far more intentional.’

You also have an MBA. Why did you acquire that degree?

I felt like as a medical educator, we did a really nice job in training our students and residents in the science and art of medicine and a terrible job in teaching them about the business of healthcare and the important role physicians should take in shaping patient-centered care.

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Do you ever miss performing ear, nose, and throat surgeries?

It was so fun and entertaining to take care of kids. I probably did 15,000 sets of tubes and 10,000 tonsillectomies. There are some days in these back-to-back meetings [as Dean], I’ll close my eyes and think about being in the operating room.

You lived in Nebraska for many years because your dad was in Strategic Air Command after years of military moves. What is the best thing about the state?

The people. We still have family and friends back in Nebraska. It’s like this Midwest fiber. It’s like they’re intentionally humble but fearlessly resilient. They are unsinkable.

Are you an appetizer person or a dessert person, and what is your favorite one?

It’s a tie. My favorite appetizer is baked brie in pastry at Cheddar Box, and my favorite dessert is the apple pie from Cheddar Box.

What was your most memorable trip and why?

It was hut-to-hut mountain biking trips. The 10th Mountain Division trained in Colorado at these mountain areas, which in World War II were used as an Army training camp. There were huts built along that area, and they’ve since been renovated. This was about a five-day trip that was a little grueling. 

What ability do you wish you had?

I wish I had the ability to stretch the day beyond 24 hours. I love life. There’s always more that I want to do for work, for play, with the dogs, with the girls.

What three words describe you best?

Optimistic, energetic, and compassionate.

How do you spend a rainy, lazy day?

When was the last time I had a lazy day? There is no unplugging in this position. I guess it would be when I’m out of town. We have a place in SnowMass, Colorado. It looks out over the mountains and a stream. It is so wonderful to curl up in front of the fire reading a Louise Penny novel. I don’t get to spend many of those in Louisville.

P.S. Purchase your tickets for the revamped Most Admired Woman event, being held at The Gillespie. Be a part of history as former Today’s Woman owners Cathy Zion and Anita Oldham pass the baton to new owner Tawana Bain. You won’t want to miss this night of sisterhood!

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