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Oracle Health Chairman Dr. David Feinberg Urges Rosalind Franklin University Graduates to ‘Go Upstream’ to Provide Preventative Care
Chicago Medical School graduates and healthcare power couple David T. Feinberg, MD ’89, MBA, and Andrea Feinberg, MD ’90, returned to Chicagoland to celebrate Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science’s 109th Commencement, held on June 2 at Credit Union 1 Arena in Chicago.
The Feinbergs have helped lead a growing movement to improve health outcomes and lower costs by addressing inequities in the social determinants of health, including food, housing, education and transportation. Dr. David Feinberg delivered the commencement address. Dr. Andrea Feinberg, an internist and critical care specialist and former chief health officer for the Innovation Institute at Geisinger, administered the Declaration of Geneva.
Trained as an adolescent and child psychiatrist, Dr. David Feinberg is a national leader in the harnessing of data and technology to improve health and reduce the complexity of care.
“Sitting in your chair all those years ago, I didn't realize how my patient's stories would stick with me for a lifetime,” Dr. Feinberg told graduates.
He recalled that on his first day in a psychiatry rotation on Chicago’s South Side, he was asked by the attending what he would do “if a patient comes in with rat bites.”
“Remember, this is in psychiatry. I said, ‘Well, I'd examine the site. I'd look for infection and I’d treat accordingly.’ My attending replies, ‘If we treat only the rat bites, the patient will return home and soon enough be back with more bites. You need to go into the community and kill the rats.’
“This was a critical moment for me on how I thought about care — the need to go upstream and provide preventative care,” Dr. Feinberg said. “The patients we were treating at that community mental health center had serious trauma because of poverty in their community. That psychiatrist dedicated his career to combating not only the effects of poverty and trauma, but the causes themselves.
“At the end of the day, health care is about people caring for people,” Dr. Feinberg added, before sharing a list of his practice essentials that included: Treat the rat bites, but more importantly, kill the rats. Do what's right for your patient. Love can heal. Make health care easier to understand and navigate. Patients can have as much of an impact on us as we do on them.
The celebration marked the conferral of more than 630 graduate degrees in numerous health and biomedical sciences. Allopathic medicine accounted for 32% of degrees awarded, followed by podiatric medicine at 16%, physician assistant practice at 12%, biomedical science at 9% and pharmacy at 8%.
RFU President and CEO Wendy Rheault, PT, PhD, FASAHP, FNAP, DipACLM, praised graduates for their grit and determination.
“You have persevered through the demands and disruptions of the greatest public health crisis of the last century,” she said. “You represent a generation that succeeded against unforeseen odds to complete your education while at the same time serving your community with courage and compassion. You will now enter professions that are in need of your talent, your commitment and your desire to make an impact.”
One month into the spring semester of their first year, members of the Class of 2023 adapted to a sudden switch to remote learning — the first in a multitude of ways in which they helped protect the health of their communities over the next three years.
“We had no idea how long the pandemic would last,” said Zanib Cheema, DPM ’23, who served as graduate speaker for the ceremony. “But knowing the one thing we could count on was community and team and our own passion and drive to keep moving forward in such a difficult time is something I’ve reflected on a lot. When I think back to how deeply people were affected, it puts into perspective why we health professionals do what we do and how much of an impact that makes.”
Dr. Cheema, the 2023 Centennial Illinois Podiatric Medical Students’ Association Leadership Award recipient, will complete her residency at Sinai Hospital’s Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics in Baltimore, Maryland. She hopes to pursue fellowship training in limb salvage and wound care.
Borrowing a famous quote, “Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated,” from Dr. Rosalind Franklin — who helped to discover the structure of DNA — Dr. Cheema advised her fellow graduates to use science “as a means of opening doors to new opportunities.”
“We’ve been trained at RFU to work with other specialties as a team, and we’ll soon be practicing that same form of teamwork to create the best care plans for our patients,” she said. “This graduating class represents the next generation of healthcare workers and scientific researchers, and I know we’re ready. Ready to make a difference. Ready to improve the health and well-being of our patients and our communities.”
Provost Nancy L. Parsley, DPM, MHPE, asked graduates to join in a round of applause in highlighting the role of RFU faculty in successful student progression throughout the pandemic and beyond.
“Our faculty are vital to ensuring each graduate is confident in the knowledge they obtained and the professions they are about to enter,” she said. “We are grateful for your dedication to our graduates and for the profound impact you have had on the next generation of health professionals and scientific researchers.”