ZeigerGifts 275x275Evan Zeiger III always knew his father’s work as a neurosurgeon was life-saving. But he didn’t realize how deeply impactful it truly was until after his parents—H. Evan Zeiger Jr., a 1974 School of Medicine graduate, and Margaret “Peggy” Shook Zeiger—died in a plane crash in 2010. Even nine years later, Zeiger III says their memorial service remains vivid in his memory.

“Literally hundreds of his patients attended the service,” Zeiger III says. “Countless people came up to me and said, ‘Your dad saved my life. I’m so thankful for him. He truly listened and cared about me.’ That’s when it clicked for me just how much of an impact he made on people’s lives.”

That impact continues to reverberate through the Zeiger Charitable Foundation, which recently made two gifts to the UAB School of Medicine: one to establish an endowed scholarship and the other to establish an endowed faculty scholar fund in the Department of Neurosurgery. UAB intends to grow the fund into an endowed professorship and eventually an endowed chair. “The foundation is a way to carry on the amazing heart and love that my mom and dad had,” Zeiger III says. “They were selfless and generous. They truly put others’ needs above their own, even accepting difficult cases knowing the patient had no insurance to pay for surgery or personally flying food and medical supplies to hurricane-torn Honduras.”

Zeiger Jr. grew up in Birmingham and graduated from Samford University before attending medical school at UAB. He later served as an associate professor in the UAB Division of Neurosurgery from 1981-87. Zeiger III says his father was “very exact and meticulous” in his work but was also a caring man who “gave great hugs.”

ZeigerFoundationLeft to right: Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education Craig Hoesley, M.D.; Evan Zeiger III, M.D.; Neurosurgery Chair James Markert, M.D., MPH; and Neurosurgery Professor G. Yancey Gillespie, Ph.D.“I grew up watching him in surgery, and it was obvious he expected the people who worked with him to be on their A game,” Zeiger III says. “Everybody knew he was the leader in the OR, but they also knew he cared about them like family. We’d go to the ICU on Christmas and sing carols for the nurses who had to work that day. That’s just the type of person he was.”

In addition to maintaining a private practice, Zeiger Jr. served as both chief of neurosurgery and chair of the Department of Surgery at Carraway Methodist Medical Center in Birmingham. His three decades of work in Birmingham made him a well-known and respected member of the local medical community.

“Evan and Peggy Zeiger were remarkable individuals,” says Mark Hadley, M.D., Charles A. and Patsy W. Collat Endowed Professor of Neurosurgery and director emeritus of the Neurosurgery Residency Program. “They were grounded in the principles of faith, service, and community. He practiced with skill and integrity and lived his life the same way.

“The Zeiger family has been generous in supporting the Department of Neurosurgery. The endowed faculty scholar is a set-aside gift aimed to stimulate alumni and any organizations influenced by Evan Zeiger Jr. to contribute. The goal is to create an endowed professorship and chair honoring Evan Zeiger Jr. and his accomplishments in neurosurgery and health care.”

Zeiger III was so influenced by his father’s passion for medicine that he is now pursuing a medical career, too. He graduated from the UAB School of Medicine this past May—becoming a third-generation alumnus—and is conducting his neurology residency at the West Virginia University School of Medicine.

“We want to continue seeing UAB grow and excel, especially the neurosurgery training program,” Zeiger III says. “Dad thought the human brain was the most beautifully complex thing in the world. He’d be pleased to know that he is still helping future neurosurgeons become trained. I’m elated that future generations of physicians will be encouraged to carry on his legacy of character, intelligent technique, and compassion through this scholarship and endowment.”

By Cary Estes

To give to medical scholarships, contact Jessica Lane at (205) 975-4452 or jblane@uab.edu, and to UAB neurosurgery, contact Katye Fuglaar at (205) 934-0792 or kcf@uab.edu.