When David Feldman was a resident in emergency medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, he saw a terrified young girl, about 4 years old, who presented with an ear infection. “All better now!” she kept insisting, clinging to her father and grandfather, two blue collar workers who looked nearly as frightened as she did. “They looked totally out of their element,” he remembers. They looked at him as if he held the little girl’s life in his hands, as if David, at 5 '9", were towering over both men.
He coaxed her to let him look at her inflamed ear. Just a little infection, he confirmed to the father and grandfather and sent them off with a prescription for an antibiotic and a lollipop for the little girl. Their expressions reflected gratitude, relief and respect.
“Their faces were so rich,” he recalls. “It was almost like something you’d see on TV. It made you feel good about the impact you can have on patients.” And that is why, though he has an MBA as well as an MD, and despite his role as an industry leader in a thriving medical partnership, David still sees patients twice a week.
“I have multiple roles now, especially at Vituity,” the national partnership of top physicians, health care providers and industry professionals. “But it always made sense to me to be an active clinical physician,” he says.
Growing up in Hawaii
David Philip Feldman was the oldest of three children born to University of Hawaii professors Arnold Feldman and Lilian Sumie Takeguchi Feldman.
He grew up in Mililani, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Pineapple fields surrounded his boyhood home. He spent hours riding his bicycle, surfing and boogie-boarding. He attended a private school near the university, a commute that required leaving the house at 5:30 a.m. to avoid traffic.
“If you left at 6, you’d be late, and it got worse and worse as I got older,” he says. He now sees that precaution as a portent for his once-rural hometown, where condominiums and upscale developments have long since replaced the pineapple fields.
He was good at science, math and physics, absorbing the lessons so thoroughly that he was usually a grade or two beyond his peers. English and writing were more challenging, but he studied hard enough to nudge his standardized test scores high enough to appeal to college admission boards.
David always wanted to be a physician. In high school, upon learning that David intended to study medicine, his ceramics teacher pulled him aside. “Don’t be a doctor,” the teacher told him. “Be a healer.”
“That is something I’ve kept with me my whole life,” he says.
Becoming a healer
David chose the University of California at Irvine, where he focused on courses that prepared him for medical school. On holidays, he visited cousins and relatives who lived nearby, and spent summers in Kona. Every summer, he and his 13 cousins slept on tatami mats at his grandparents’ farmhouse, while the adults stayed in bedrooms.
During his undergraduate and medical school years, he volunteered at elder care facilities and hospitals, tutored other students, and helped with research projects.
“I just always had a feeling for observing and interacting with patients, and caring for people,” he says.
“I liked to see how science and math and problem-solving skills could have an impact on people. Maybe it’s a calling. It’s very meaningful, to the point where now I have multiple roles at Vituity, including opportunities to leave clinical medicine entirely, but I’m happiest when I’m busy and seeing patients.”
His medical residency was divided between teaching courses at the Harvard Medical School and doing rotations at Boston Children’s Hospital.
‘Doing our best’
David and his wife Bonnie have three children: Evelyn, Zachary and Olivia, all in elementary school. He likes to take them camping, and is teaching Zachary to play golf, which replaced surfing as his “Zen sport.”
At Vituity, a national partnership of physicians, advanced providers and industry professionals, he applies the same philosophy that governs him as a physician. “The human element of health care interaction is, to me, at the heart of what we do,” he says. “That’s good medicine.”
“I tell my team to do three things: What’s right for the patient, what’s right for all members of our team, and to be kind. If you keep those three things in mind -- it’s a little hokey but true -- we will all be doing our best.”