Time out with T.O. - The passing of a dear friend

by Tom O'Connor, UNMC public relations | December 06, 2013

Image with caption: Jim Fagin

Jim Fagin

UNMC lost one of its biggest supporters this week with the death of Jim Fagin.

You probably knew him. His face and voice were a prominent part of the Omaha media for many years, and most recently he served on the communications team for Sen. Ben Nelson.

Fagin, 68, died of pancreatic cancer after a four-year battle with what is probably the most lethal form of cancer.

In 2009, he came to The Nebraska Medical Center and underwent a Whipple surgical procedure, a complex surgery that involves the removal of the head of the pancreas, part of the small intestine, a portion of the stomach and also part of the bile duct.

It is the kind of procedure that is only done at the most outstanding medical centers and by the top surgeons.

Fagin loved the medical center. He called it "Mayo on the Missouri."

As the medical center raised money for the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center during the past year, Fagin didn't hesitate to share his story with the media.

If there was anything he could do to spread the word, he would do it. Speak at a news conference -- no problem. Testify before the City Council - absolutely.

The medical center had saved his life. Almost nobody lives four years with pancreatic cancer. It's usually over in months.

For Fagin, the four years allowed him more time with his family and to see three grandchildren born.

His passion for the medical center extended way beyond his personal bout with pancreatic cancer.

Before his cancer diagnosis, when he was a radio talk show host, Fagin was a staunch supporter of UNMC's venture into embryonic stem cell research.

In a conservative state like Nebraska, the easy way out for a radio talk show host would be to oppose this controversial research. Why rock the boat and lose listeners?

Not Fagin. He understood the importance of the research and the tremendous potential it held for people. He welcomed the opportunity to mix it up with opponents of the research.

Last May, Fagin was the keynote speaker at the Annual Tribute Luncheon held by the Nebraska Coalition for Lifesaving Cures.

He received a standing ovation.

When I heard the news that Jim had died, I have to admit there were tears in my eyes.

You see, I lost a dear friend and so did UNMC.

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Bud Shaw
December 06, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Beautiful tribute to a great guy, Tom. Thank you.