Andrew J. McCanna, MD (Andy) died peacefully at home surrounded by his family on June 30, 2021, after a 20-month battle with a rare form of prostate cancer. Andy was born on March 7, 1975, in Indianapolis. As a child, his family settled in Auburn, Indiana, where he was able to enjoy the small-town atmosphere that included the Auburn Free Fall Fair, Little League baseball and of course basketball. He enjoyed summers in his grandparents’ pool and Thomas Park and winters ice skating in the flooded woods behind their home. He graduated from DeKalb High School, where he excelled in academics as well as cross country and track. He received IHSAA Academic All-State honors in both cross country and track and field in the year of his graduation, 1993. He also earned the Award for Outstanding Senior in Mathematics.
Andy continued his education at Hanover College, where he received an academic scholarship, eventually graduating with a chemistry major, Cum Laude in 1997. He was involved in the Sigma Chi Fraternity, where he was elected Outstanding Senior. He was a member of Alpha Lambda Delta, Phi Eta Sigma, and Gamma Sigma Pi Honor Societies. He also continued his success in athletics, earning NCAA Division III Academic All-American honors in cross country in 1994 and 1995. He received the Hanover College Scholar Athlete Award in 1994 and 1995. He supported himself financially working as a dishwasher in the sorority Alpha Delta Pi, where he strengthened friendships and discovered a surprising love for the guilty pleasure of daytime soaps.
Andy began his medical training at the Indiana University School of Medicine at the South Bend regional campus. He relished in the atmosphere that Notre Dame provided. He was able to find balance in the experience of big campus life, as well as the rigors of a new life-long commitment to the learning of the miracles and intricacies of the human body. While in Indianapolis during his clinical rotations, he enjoyed and excelled in every field of practice to which he was exposed. Although he did well in his preclinical studies, Andy discovered that the delivery of care in clinical practice was where he really shined and thrived. He had a special interest in the practice of surgery but found that the clinician mentors in that field struggled to find a healthy work-life balance. He found that the mentors in Emergency Medicine, such as Dr. Carey Chisholm and Dr. Kevin Rodgers, more closely mirrored his interests in life and set out on a career down that path. After graduation from medical school in 2001, he continued his medical education at the Indiana University Emergency Medicine Residency Program. Upon graduation from residency in 2004, he received the Impact Award for his contributions to the training program.
After his medical training, Andy returned home to northeast Indiana and practiced Emergency Medicine for close to 20 years in Fort Wayne and the surrounding communities. Andy has been a brilliant and well-respected physician leader in the medical community. His primary professional interest was cultivating a thriving independent physician-owned and physician-run Emergency Medicine practice that could partner seamlessly with hospital systems to serve the greater Fort Wayne community with the highest possible clinical care available. The tireless pursuit of that passion led him to serve as physician recruiting director, serve on the board of managers, and eventually as the president of a medical group of over 50 Emergency Medicine physicians. He also served Lutheran Hospital as the Medical Director for the Emergency Department from 2016 until 2020, as well as serving as a member of the Peer Review Committee from 2011-2020. He served the hospital in numerous other organizational and educational capacities, including a coordinating role in the formal education of physician assistants, medical students, and family medicine residents. In his final year of practice, he found a refreshed sense of purpose at the Marion General Hospital Emergency Department assisting other frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andy was passionate about continuing medical education and was always researching and staying up to date with current evidence-based practice. He was not only an amazing caregiver to the patients of the greater Fort Wayne area, but also to his family and friends at any time of day or night. He came to be known as “Dr. Andy” to the children of friends who invariably would call with all the minor war wounds that are inevitable in the life of an active child. His choice of emergency medicine made him useful to anybody that had any medical ailment. His wide-ranging medical knowledge was such that he may have truly been a jack of all trades and master of all as well!
As much success as Andy had professionally, his most significant achievement was finding the love of his life in Barbara (Heslip) and not letting her get away. It takes a special person to keep up with Andy, and Barbara was the perfect complement. Together they kept a frenetic pace of working hard and playing even harder. Andy would work an overnight shift while Barbara packed and prepared for a long road trip, and she’d drive to the destination while Andy attempted to catch up on sleep in the passenger seat. They never let anything get in the way of experiencing all that this world had to offer. It is hard to think of someone that squeezed more out of each moment in life than Andy did together with his soulmate Barbara. Although Andy’s personality never really changed through his life, something in him softened and became easier to love after he found Barbara. That was amplified even more upon becoming a father. Along with Barbara, his four boys, Jack, Aidan, Liam and Cormac, were the center of his life. Each of his boys demonstrate several of Andy’s virtues, but each in their own way. His influence on their zest for life is undeniable.
Andy had a profound love for all things tradition, a love that we suspect first was cultivated in his upbringing and continued participation in the Catholic faith. His most favorite activities are steeped in tradition. Chicago Cubs, Notre Dame football, and the Indianapolis 500 were all experiences that he lived and breathed. In a way, he embodies what is good about those sports more than the actual events and outcomes themselves: survival, dedication, grit, and persistence, as well as the proposition that success does not always mean victory. When the Cubs were down to the last game in the World Series, Andy and Barbara jumped on the opportunity to go to Cleveland for game 7 even though the momentum had heavily swung in the favor of the Indians. To be present for the moment, even if it looked like defeat was the most likely outcome, had been the life of a Cubs fan. Perseverance and survival against the odds and even in the face of most certain defeat is a virtue that being a Cubs fan sharpens. Andy embodies those virtues as much or more than any other person that has lived.
Andy loved traditions with family and friends even more than his sports. Holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas brought out the best in Andy. He became known for frying 2 to 3 turkeys at a time for these gatherings. Family ski trips to Northern Michigan and Stuart Lake in the Upper Peninsula for summer camping and winter snowmobiling were some of his most cherished moments. He was a generous and gracious host, and gatherings of family and friends at their home created legendary memories. Because of the always entertaining and sometimes unbelievable moments and atmosphere that Andy and Barbara created at their home, their friends coined the name “McCannaland.” Andy and Barbara were always the last to leave a party and when they were hosting, it meant that the party may never stop. Andy was in his element when he could be creating fun for himself and others. His wide range of friends included those from high school, college, medical school and anyone who was lucky enough to cross his path in the years that followed. He loved to make people laugh. His own laugh was so distinctive, full of life, and infectious that even if you were in a bad mood, you couldn’t help but crack a smile. He was never afraid of being unique or odd or crazy to entertain and cause a reaction in others, including by ingesting insects and other creatures on many occasions – all for the fun and shock value to his audience. He was an expert at understanding the mind of a child, and he had a special relationship to all the children of his family and friends because of this. Andy’s spirit filled the room with Joy and Love, and even though his body has broken, his spirit still fills our hearts effortlessly.
Although Andy will always be remembered for the work he did to help those who came into his ER and for the efforts he made to be the best, first and foremost he was a wonderful father to his four boys, a loving husband to Barbara, the fun uncle to his many nieces and nephews and “Drewski,” a fond nickname that his mother coined when reading Bears in the Night to him as a child and that stuck forever for those who loved him. We will miss him every day for the rest of our lives.
In addition to Barbara and their four boys, Jack, Aidan, Liam, and Cormac, Andy is survived by his mother Deborah Blackwell Mustard, his stepfather Michael Mustard, his brothers Shannon (Sarah Savabi) and Colman and sister Katherine (Christopher Ruhl) and their families; his grandmother Barbara Shaw Blackwell; his aunt Julia Blackwell Gelinas and cousin Alexander Gelinas. He is also survived by his father and mother-in-law, Richard and Patricia Heslip and all of Barbara’s many brothers and sisters and their families with whom he spent many wonderful times in the UP. He was preceded in death by his grandfather Carroll David Blackwell.
In lieu of flowers, Andy’s family would ask that you consider memorial gifts to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Matthew 25, Community Harvest Food Bank, and the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center.
Visitation will be held on July 6, 2021, from 2 to 4pm and from 6 to 8pm at Divine Mercy Funeral Home. A funeral mass will be held at 1pm on July 7, 2021, at St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church, with visitation one hour prior, beginning at 12pm. Reflections on Andy’s life will be shared by family members starting at approximately 12:45pm.