Alumna Heidi Feldman

    ìI had to really buckle down, because it was such a shock to be in such a beautiful place and have to study,î Feldman said.

    Today, after seven years at the UCSD School of Medicine and more than 24 years after her graduation, Feldman is a renowned leader in her field of behavioral-developmental pediatrics. Though Feldman did her undergraduate work at the University of Pennsylvania, she followed her boyfriend, now husband, down to San Diego for medical school. He was an assistant professor in the psychology department at UCSD and they were married while she was attending medical school.

    Feldman is currently a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh medical school and also directs the University, Community, Leaders, and Individuals with Disabilities (UCLID) Center at the University of Pittsburgh, a multidisciplinary leadership development program in neurodevelopmental disabilities.

    Yet Feldmanís work does not end at the teaching level. Feldmanís typical week consists of teaching graduate students, clinical activity, seeing patients, seminars with psychologists, nurses, doctors, social workers and public health officers, as well as the collection and analysis of new research.

    Additionally, Feldman spends much of her time doing advocacy work. She currently serves on many respected and recognized boards and national committees regarding developmental-behavioral pediatrics and is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, working extensively in the fields of genetic disorders, ADHD and language impairment.

    Feldman cites her education at UCSD as a major part of the preparation for her job today.

    ìI think I got an outstanding education at UCSD,î Feldman said. ìI felt prepared at many different levels and I felt that my education was every bit as good as [everyone elseís].î

    Feldman also said that opportunities at UCSD, outside of her books and classes, were part of her most valuable career and life experiences and influences. She said that at UCSD she had been given many leadership opportunities to shape the way all students were educated, as well as her own personal education.

    ìThat experience at UCSD has stood me in very good stead,î Feldman said. ìI very explicitly talk to students about leadership opportunities. It is such an opportunity to be able to articulate a vision and try and implement the vision.î

    These opportunities included helping to shape and teach a course in human development that is still given today, start a primary care clinic with Marty Stein at UCSD, and serve on an admission policies committee.

    ìI was on a task force that saw that the school was becoming more and more homogenous,î Feldman said. ìMost of my classmates were 22 to 23 year old males that had come from Stanford.î

    Feldman said that during her time at the UCSD School of Medicine, she had been one of 12 female classmates, and that her class had only six Asian students and two African American students.

    ìIt was pretty different from most medical schools,î Feldman said. ì[Our task] was like a detective job, and we were heard. Our task force had the chance to present and we were part of an extended effort to look at education.î

    Other experiences outside of the classroom included a weekly potluck held by her professor, Dr. Ruth Heifitz.

    ì[Heifitz] said people would bring what they wanted to eat, and they did,î Feldman said.

    She said that the potlucks welcomed discussions from anyone interested in the progressive side of pediatrics and built a sense of community as well.

    Like most medical students, Feldman hoped to create a difference in the lives of her patients. On surgical rotation, Feldman was called to help with an acute surgery case, one that involved a fifteen year old who had burned himself while attempting to hang Halloween decorations from a telephone line.

    Feldman acted as the liaison between the surgeon and the family during the entire process, and the gratitude of the family was expressed by their offer to support her medical education. At her suggestion, the family decided to create an endowed fund beginning with $25,000 to support the hospital’s efforts.

    ìThe family just asked me after my time with them if they could support my medical school education,î Feldman said. ìI was so honored, but I said instead that maybe there was something we could work out. They ended up creating the Frank Arendsee Feldman fund as a grant for medical school students.î

    Feldmanís favorite class at UCSD was her anatomy class that, unlike many other medical schools, is taught during the second year at the UCSD School of Medicine.

    ìAt most medical schools it is taught in the first year by surgeons,î Feldman said. ìItís meant to shock you and show you that youíre really in medical school. But at UCSD it was a very functional discipline, and I think of it with a lot of fondness. It was a great course.î

    Though Feldman entered the UCSD School of Medicine with a degree in developmental psychology and finished her doctorate in psychology at the end of her first term, she said that she was already interested in pediatrics and child development.

    ìAt first when I came to medical school, I was learning that psychology and pediatrics were two different disciplines,î Feldman said. ìAt the end of the first term, I was nothing but confused.î

    Feldman said that the first term of medical school involved much learning at the molecular level, and she had felt that the issues didnít pertain to her career. Gradually, she found a balance between her first discipline of psychology and her new studies.

    Feldman also said that her work at the Primary Care Clinic, established during her time in medical school, made her confident that she had made the right career choice. She worked to set up the clinic with Marty Stein and Susan Dickson in the summer between her first and second term.

    ìGradually, with these really interested people I saw that it wasnít a matter of shutting the door to two different disciplines, but more of a natural fit,î Feldman said.

    Feldmanís work at the clinic is a special memory of her time at UCSD. The clinic sought to provide students with the education they needed in a private office setting.

    ìPediatrics was coming to realize that it should replicate what people would be doing in their careers,î Feldman said.

    Feldman had the opportunity to work alongside staff as chief resident and oversaw the educational program at the clinic. Residents would be filmed as they gave care to patients and were provided with feedback of their performance and communication with the patient. Basic care included dealing with immunizations, patients with colds and earaches as well as the aftermath of being an inpatient.

    ìThere were a wonderful core of nurses and faculty,î Feldman said. ìI have a very warm feeling of that clinic. The patients benefited. It was just so great and exciting that I felt like I did a good job.î

    At the clinic Feldman also made use of her training in Spanish, and made sure to read Spanish health care books before bed including, ìDonde no hai doctor (Where there is no Doctor)î by David Werner. This book allowed her to read up on administering medicine while refreshing her knowledge of Spanish.

    Feldmanís extensive work in her field will be recognized by the UCSD Alumni Association at their Awards for Excellence Gala on October 25. She will receive the Outstanding Alumna Award.

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