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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Family docs’ stories forge basis for St. Francis physician’s writing project

Work-in-progress earns author national recognition, fellowship

INDIANAPOLIS – American medicine in the 20th century was rapidly evolving and doctors faced myriad challenges providing the best possible care to their patients. Equally important, these physicians were forging principles which today set the standard for family medicine.

That is the basis of a writing project Richard Feldman, M.D., has been working on for nearly six years. Feldman, director of medical education and residency training for Franciscan St. Francis Health, has been chronicling the experiences of Hoosier family doctors of the mid-20th century.

Family Practice Stories celebrates that time in America that many consider the golden age of generalism in medicine,” Feldman said. “It is a book about a time gone by, a time when professionalism, the art of medicine, and the art of healing were at a zenith. These doctors were general practitioners of that ‘Greatest Generation’ who possessed the character, core values, and principles from which our contemporary specialty of family medicine was modeled after and grew.”

Feldman’s work also has garnered national attention. He recently was named the winner of the 2011 Center for the History of Family Medicine Fellowship from the American Academy of Family Physicians. The fellowship grant he received will enable him to conduct more research for the book, which he expects to complete this fall.

Feldman said he plans to submit the book for publication and also make it available to members of the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians and students attending or visiting the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Family Practice Stories is divided into three sections. The first is an introduction that recounts the history and development of family medicine and details the traditions, principles, and values of family medicine.

The second section is a collection of perspectives; some told in the words of individuals who interviewed these older family physicians; most are the perspectives of the doctors themselves concerning medicine and their careers.

The last section contains a far-ranging collection of stories told by older Hoosier family physicians who practiced during this era. These stories are specific episodes from their careers – ranging from the humorous and sad, to the touching and ironic.

Feldman comes by his passion for family medicine originally through his father, the late Max Feldman, M.D., who was a family doctor in the South Bend, Ind., for nearly four decades.

No stranger to historical writing, Feldman published Home Before the Raven Calls (Emmis Books, 2003), sleuthing the history of a Native American totem pole that once stood near his Indianapolis home back to its original location in Alaska. A reproduction of the original totem pole is now on display in the atrium at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.