Research Horizons


Kotagal named Lifetime Health Care Hero

Uma Kotagal, MBBS, MSc, has been selected as this year’s Health Care Hero Lifetime Achievement Award recipient by the Cincinnati Business Courier. She and other Health Care Heroes are to be honored at a February banquet.

A pioneer in the fields of population health and quality improvement, Kotagal, 75, retired from Cincinnati Children’s in June 2021 after 46 years of working to improve outcomes for patients at the medical center. She is now Professor Emeritus.

Kotagal, who retired as Executive Leader for Population and Community Health Senior Fellow at Cincinnati Children’s, is credited with inspiring a generation of clinicians and researchers to strive to improve outcomes for all kids.

One of her own children, Meera Kotagal, MD, is now a pediatric surgeon at Cincinnati Children’s. Kotagal’s husband, Dr. Shashi Kant, is a nephrologist with UC Health and professor with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Jamie Smith, publisher and market president of the Cincinnati Business Courier, informed Uma Kotagal of the lifetime achievement honor, and the news was shared with the public on Jan. 27, 2023. Courier names retired Dr. Uma Kotagal 2023 Lifetime Health Care Hero – Cincinnati Business Courier (

Kotagal is the second Cincinnati Children’s leader in two years to be recognized with the Health Care Hero Lifetime Achievement Award. Last year’s winner was Michael Fisher, who spent nearly 12 years as CEO.

Born and initially trained in what is now Mumbai, India, Kotagal emigrated to the U.S. in 1971 and began a neonatology fellowship at Cincinnati Children’s in 1975.

During her decades at Cincinnati Children’s, Kotagal rose to become clinical director of Neonatology, where she published research on care approaches and worked on safer forms of transport for severely ill newborns. As her roles expanded, she shifted her thinking toward seeking systemwide impacts.

Over the years, Kotagal was the author or co-author of more than 130 papers. Topics ranged from managing sore throats to battling antibiotic-resistant infections – and to changing pediatric academic medicine.

Along the way, she helped build Cincinnati Children’s into one of the world’s leading pediatric academic medical centers.

In 2010, Kotagal became the first director of the James M. Anderson Center for Health Systems Excellence, which not only studies breakthroughs in quality improvement but also works to accelerate adoption of data-driven best practices once they emerge.

“My philosophy has always been to say yes when I can, to put kids and families first, and to change the systems so they work better for the kids and families,” Kotagal said in an interview for a Cincinnati Children’s alumni profile.

According to the Business Courier, Health Care Heroes recognizes people who have made an impact on health care through their concern for patients in Greater Cincinnati, their research or inventions, their management skills, their innovative programs for employees or their service to the poor and uninsured.

A feature story about Kotagal and her achievements will be published in the Feb. 17 edition of the Business Courier, and she will be honored at the 26th annual Health Care Heroes awards dinner 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, at the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati, 151 W. Fifth St. downtown.

Among the nominees in the Community Outreach category is Jennifer Frey, PhD, president of Every Child Succeeds, which was founded in 1999 by Cincinnati Children’s, the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency and United Way of Greater Cincinnati.  To see a full list of Health Care Hero finalists, click here.