At the time Dr. John Tinker joined the University of Nebraska Medical Center as professor and chairman of the anesthesiology department, very few physicians were going into the field, because of high liability risks.

Yet Tinker was able to expand the department, the university said, largely because of his strong recruitment of female physicians. When he retired in 2008, 17 women were on the anesthesiology faculty.

“I created an environment in which young women could have a career and a family,” Tinker said at his retirement. “I did this by showing respect for their needs as young mothers and getting out of their way.”

Tinker died Wednesday at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. He was 74.

One of the women who worked with him at UNMC, Dr. Sheila Ellis, remembered Tinker fondly.

“Three things mattered to him: patients, the people who worked for him and the atmosphere we worked in,” she said. “He believed in people and he believed in providing a flexible work environment in which those people could flourish. ... He was an amazing individual. We all benefited from his leadership and vision.”

Dr. Steven Lisco, current chairman of the department, said Tinker touched many lives as a clinician, an academic leader, a mentor and a friend. “We will certainly miss him,” Lisco said.

A native of Cincinnati, Tinker earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1964 and was valedictorian when he graduated from the Cincinnati College of Medicine in 1968. He completed his internship as well as residencies in surgery and anesthesiology at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Harvard Medical School, in Boston.

Following a two-year stint in the Army Medical Corps Reserve, Tinker moved to Rochester, Minnesota, in 1974 to teach at the Mayo Medical School. He rose from instructor to associate professor and became chief of cardiovascular anesthesiology at the Mayo Clinic, a position he held from 1978 to 1983.

For the next 14 years, before moving to UNMC, he was professor and director of anesthesia at the University of Iowa College of Medicine.

UNMC said Tinker’s areas of research were coronary physiology and anesthetics, cardiopulmonary bypass physiology, anesthesia risk and risk management, operating room management, quality assessment and cost/efficacy in medicine. He was a co-author of two major textbooks and five other books in the anesthesiology field.

As part of his research, Tinker developed new anesthetic agents for use in the operating room. He held patents on five inventions.

His funeral service is at 5 p.m. today at Rasmusson-Bacon Funeral Home in Nevada, Iowa. A graveside burial ceremony is at 11 a.m. Monday at the Tabor (Iowa) Cemetery.

His survivors include his wife, Bonnie, of Ames, Iowa; his former wife, Martha Iuen-Tinker, of Des Moines; five daughters; eight grandchildren; and a sister.

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