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Duke Flags Lowered: Dr. Kelly Ann Machovec, Esteemed Pediatric Cardiac Anesthesiologist, Dies at Age 43

Dr. Kelly Ann Machovec It is with profound sadness that we inform you of the passing of a beloved member of the Duke Anesthesiology family and an esteemed pediatric cardiac anesthesiologist, Kelly Ann Machovec, MD, MPH. She passed away on March 30 at the age of 43.

She will be remembered as an exceptional academician and physician who dedicated her career to improving the lives of children undergoing cardiothoracic or vascular surgery, and for her special impact that was palpable to her colleagues and patients throughout the Duke Children's Heart Center.

Dr. Machovec was originally from Baltimore, Maryland. She received her Master of Public Health degree in 2005 and her Doctor of Medicine degree in 2006, both at the University of North Carolina. She went on to complete a residency in anesthesiology at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia and a fellowship in pediatric anesthesiology here at Duke University School of Medicine. In 2013, Dr. Machovec joined Duke Anesthesiology faculty as an assistant professor of anesthesiology; she was appointed an associate professor of anesthesiology in 2019.

Dr. Machovec was an accomplished pediatric anesthesiologist whose research primarily focused on the hemostasis management of children following open heart surgery performed on cardiopulmonary bypass. Earlier this year she received the Duke Pediatric and Congenital Heart Center Impact Award, recognizing her exceptional impact on the clinical practice around hemostasis, on both local and national levels. She was a fierce advocate for child-centered health care policies and always questioned the status quo. For example, she led the charge to discontinue preoperative blood testing in children to prevent them from having unnecessary painful blood draws in the preoperative clinic. Dr. Machovec’s excellence and research led to her invitation to write the book chapter on “Anesthesia for Pediatric Cardiac Surgery” in Miller’s Anesthesia textbook. In 2015, she co-founded the Hemostasis Interest Group, a committee within the Congenital Cardiac Anesthesia Society which she served on for six years as committee chair, member and mentor; she also served as an at-large member on the Board of Directors of the Congenital Cardiac Anesthesia Society. Dr. Machovec was a passionate educator, serving as chair of the Clinical Competency Committee for Duke's Pediatric Anesthesiology Fellowship and as a question writer and committee member for the American Board of Anesthesiology's Pediatric Maintenance of Certification. In addition to being an outstanding clinician and a dedicated educator, she was recognized with the high honor of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award at the Duke University School of Medicine in March of this year. Recipients of this distinguished award are recognized as exemplars of humanism in the care of their patients, their compassionate delivery of care and respectfulness given to their patients and health care colleagues, as well as for their clinical excellence. 

Beyond her career, Dr. Machovec advocated and raised funds for basic science research. From 2013-2017, she also advocated for pediatric health care on a global scale by taking part in medical missions in India, the Philippines and Haiti for Operation Smile, which helps children with cleft lip and cleft palate, and Gift of Life International, which provides lifesaving cardiac treatment to children in need from developing countries. 

When introduced by Dr. Edmund Jooste prior to her delivery of Duke Anesthesiology Grand Rounds last year, Dr. Machovec was described as having “the determination of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the curiosity of Marie Curie and fierceness of Wonder Woman” and these are the qualities that her work family loved and admired in her. She was also described as funny, strong-willed and energetic, and a dedicated team member who will be deeply missed by her pediatric anesthesiology colleagues and all of her interprofessional friends and colleagues within Duke Anesthesiology and the Pediatric Heart Center.

To preserve Dr. Machovec's legacy at this institution, the department has formally established the Kelly Machovec Humanism Award. The recipient of this annual departmental award will exemplify grace and compassion in their delivery of patient-centered care, reverence for patients, their loved ones and colleagues, ethical principles, and a continuous commitment to clinical excellence. Most importantly, Dr. Machovec's legacy will live on through her family. She was a dedicated and loving wife to her husband, Scott Matthews, and proud mother to her three young daughters, Vivienne, Eva and Caroline. Her loved ones will remember her as an engaged, talented and powerful woman with unwavering passion and optimism, who loved spending time with her family and friends, running, practicing yoga, reading, and baking.

Please join us in extending our sincerest condolences to Dr. Machovec's family, friends and colleagues. Duke flags will be lowered in honor of her life and legacy