A bowtie affair with BGSU

Dr. Christopher Bernheisel '98 says love of learning was passed down from late chemistry professor

By Bob Cunningham

Dr. Christopher Bernheisel ’98 has always had a love of learning.

Bernheisel said it's a trait that was nurtured by the late Dr. Eliot Blinn at Bowling Green State University.

Bernheisel, who grew up in Perrysburg, Ohio, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Bowling Green State University in 1998. He earned a Doctor of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and is board certified in family medicine.

“I have wonderful memories of BGSU and am quite thankful for the education I received,” Bernheisel said. “Probably as would be expected during the formative years in college, one of the most influential people in my life was a chemistry professor at BGSU, Dr. Blinn. My ‘trademark’ feature of wearing a bowtie is actually in honor of Dr. Blinn. who passed away my junior year.

“Dr. Blinn was just one of those really great teachers who you really enjoyed going to his class. It was that wonderful combination of being entertaining and very educational. You were learning and having fun doing it.”

Bernheisel recalled the reason Blinn loved bowties so much: their association with being a chemist.

“As the story goes, you could always spot a chemist because they wore bowties so they didn’t ruin their neckties by all the chemicals and all that,” Bernheisel said. “He said, ‘This is a mark that you’re a chemist.’ One time I had a meeting with him and he said, “Remember, wherever you go, no matter what you do, you’re a chemist first,’ and he always wore that bowtie.

“It’s always been one of my things: I’m a chemist first, and I’m going to wear that bowtie like he did.”

Bernheisel's love of learning contributed to him being honored with the 2016 Family Medicine Educator of the Year Award by The Ohio Academy of Family Physicians in Columbus.

Bernheisel is the program director at The Christ Hospital/University of Cincinnati Family Medicine Residency Program, where he has practiced family medicine since 2002 when he was a resident in the program.

“It’s a nice honor,” said Bernheisel, who lives with his wife and four sons in Wyoming, Ohio, a suburb north of Cincinnati. “I think the really cool thing is hearing the comments from former graduates and even my colleagues. It’s special and motivating, and it helps keep you going to work every day excited about your job.”

Bernheisel said his teaching style has also been influenced by his BGSU experience.

“The thing about Bowling Green is, the teachers were excellent educators and I really enjoyed learning there,” he said. “As I look back, my lecture style certainly took a lot from what I saw at Bowling Green, and Dr. Blinn specifically. He just made it fun and was so excited to teach. I try to do the same thing, because if you get the impression that this subject is just the coolest thing in the world, your learners are more likely to believe that too. That’s certainly that’s what I saw role-modeled at BGSU.”

One of the youngest program directors in the state, Bernheisel has a personal investment in each resident from a professional development, education and personal life standpoint. He has transformed the University of Cincinnati family medicine residency curriculum and made the residency an example of true excellence in family medicine education.

“His encyclopedic knowledge of clinical medicine is made approachable with a teaching attitude that says ‘Come join my side, let’s figure this problem out together,’” said Dr. Jeffrey Schlaudecker, program director for the University of Cincinnati Geriatric Medicine Fellowship Program.

Also an associate professor of family medicine and director of inpatient family medicine service at the residency, Bernheisel has received many awards from the residency including the Family Medicine Inpatient Teacher Award four times in his short career, the Excellence in Residency Training Award, the Family Medicine Mentor Award and the Family Medicine Positive Changes Award.

“The cornerstone of Chris’ effectiveness is made up of his incredible clinical acumen, extensive knowledge of medicine, passion for learning and teaching, internal motivation to excel, ability to discern in the moment and his consummate integrity,” said Dr. Philip Diller, chair of the University of Cincinnati Department of Family and Community Medicine. “He is quite extraordinary and leaves many in awe of his abilities, but at his core he is selfless and humble as a servant leader, enabling him to lead those around him by example.”

Bernheisel, who also discovered his passion for volunteering at BGSU, is a founding member of Passion for Life, a nonprofit designed to empower patients and communities. He volunteers at Price Hill Free Medical Clinic and is an active member of Ascension Lutheran Church, serving in multiple roles. He has made several mission trips to St. Lucia and Honduras.