Michael Blakesley grew up in an Elkhart County farm family. His parents were raised in large, relatively poor families and had come of age during the Great Depression. As such, they had no opportunity for any formal education beyond the eighth grade. Both parents, however, were extremely hard workers who continued to educate themselves, and they made a comfortable life for their family. It was from them that Blakesley learned the value of hard work and of obtaining an education.
After graduating from what was then called Elkhart High School, Blakesley enrolled at IU South Bend, where he studied mathematics and chemistry and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1974. Blakesley has fond memories of his time at IU South Bend, where classes were held in only two buildings—Northside and Greenlawn Halls. He remembers watching from the hallway in Northside as what was then called Northside West was built. It was finally finished by the middle of his junior year. Blakesley also has a deep appreciation for what his professors taught him. Professors Garber, Marcus, and Nazaroff particularly stand out in that respect.
Blakesley was accepted at the IU School of Medicine to continue his education after graduation from IU South Bend. His first year of medical school was spent here in South Bend at what was then called the South Bend Center for Medical Education; this was in the early years of what has turned out to be an extremely successful experiment in distributed medical education across the state of Indiana. During the first semester of that first year of medical school, Blakesley took Professor John O’Malley’s anatomy course. Unknown to Blakesley, Professor O’Malley had the reputation of teaching by far the toughest medical school anatomy course in Indiana. Blakesley noticed that it was a demanding course, but being a bit naive, he thought that was the way medical school would be. After doing reasonably well in the course and finishing up his first year in South Bend, Blakesley went on to complete the last three years of medical school in Indianapolis and earned his Doctor of Medicine in 1978.
Blakesley returned to South Bend for a residency in family medicine at Memorial Hospital and realized quickly that he was more interested in emergency medicine (EM). During his residency, Blakesley gained substantial EM experience by way of moonlighting in various local emergency departments, augmented by self-study. When he completed the residency, he immediately began a career in emergency medicine at Memorial Hospital that ultimately spanned 34 years.
In 1986 Professor O’Malley showed up at Memorial to ask Blakesley if he would be interested in proctoring medical students in the dissection lab. And so Blakesley began his secondary career of teaching human anatomy to IU School of Medicine–South Bend (IUSM–SB) first-year medical students. Anatomy is a highly challenging, detailed course that begins the medical school curriculum. Through his course, Blakesley imparts a massive body of knowledge to his students and is instrumental in ensuring that students learn to manage the unexpected aspects of medical school and achieve a path to success.
Blakesley holds two teaching positions, as assistant professor of anatomy and cell biology at IUSM–SB, and adjunct assistant professor of biological science at the University of Notre Dame. As a physician educator Blakesley has helped mold generations of students from this region who stay to practice medicine here. Highly respected by his peers, Blakesley and his teaching partner David Halperin, M.D., were named the 2014 IU School of Medicine–South Bend Outstanding Physicians of the Year. This is IUSM–SB’s peer-selected and most prestigious award.
In support of Indiana University, Blakesley established the Blakesley-O’Malley 50th Anniversary Scholarship Endowment and has encouraged other alumni to support future students with gifts to the scholarship fund. Retired from clinical emergency medicine after more than 40 years of service, Blakesley continues to manage the business side of the practice for the emergency medicine physician group at Memorial. He and Halperin also continue to teach anatomy to first-year medical students and to Notre Dame undergraduates at the IU School of Medicine–South Bend.
Blakesley has been married since 1985 to Alice Blakesley, who earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from IU South Bend in 1992, and together they have two adult children. In semi-retirement he serves on the board of the South Bend Medical Foundation and is active in the Memorial Hospital Medical Staff Organization as a member and as chair of the Bylaws Committee. Blakesley also maintains membership with the Indiana State Medical Association, the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, and the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society since being elected during medical school.