Dear Friends and Family,
In honor of our beloved Greg, whose 35th birthday would have been this March 19th, we are focusing on what we believe is a deeply meaningful way to honor his memory, beautiful spirit and incredible life. We are supporting two very important initiatives – the Greg Feldman Surgical Missions to Rwanda of Medical Missions for Children, and the Greg Feldman Residency Balance in Life Program at the Stanford School of Medicine Department of Surgery. An overview of the two programs is below.
In supporting these initiatives, we celebrate the exceptional human being that Greg was, we carry on his legacy of living a life of purpose and healing others, and we help to “heal the healer.” We — Greg’s immediate family — have made our own financial commitment to both of these critically important programs and respectfully ask you to join us in supporting one or both of these efforts that, like Greg, will make a significant impact on the lives of so many.
Greg Feldman Memorial Surgical Missions to Rwanda: Medical Missions for Children (MMFC)
MMFC is the program with which Greg volunteered the April before he died. While in Rwanda at that time, Greg and the MMFC team performed over 70 life-changing surgeries on Rwandan children and young adults. Being able to help — and change the lives of — people in such great need while collaborating with an incredible team of fellow volunteers was one of the highlights of Greg’s life. MMFC has named its annual missions to Rwanda in Greg’s honor. Funds raised in his name will support the sustainability and, hopefully, expansion of MMFC’s tremendous program in Rwanda.
MMFC is a Massachusetts based non-profit organization that dispatches teams of doctors, dentists and nurses to the most remote and underprivileged communities in the developing world. MMFC provides free surgical, medical and dental care to children with congenital facial deformities–primarily clefts of the lip and palate, but also ear defects, head and neck tumors and burn injuries. MMFC volunteers do not get paid, use personal vacation time to travel on the missions, and carry all necessary supplies and equipment with them. Since its inception over 21 years ago, MMFC has launched over 200 missions worldwide, operated on over 20,000 children and young adults, and provided nutrition counseling and speech therapy to several thousand children and their families. MMFC has also provided dental care and education to over 50,000 patients.
Greg Feldman Balance in Life Program: Stanford School of Medicine Department of Surgery
In light of Greg’s tragic death just four months into his fellowship at Northwestern Memorial Hospital — after thriving in his surgery residency at Stanford and winning every award possible for a surgery resident there — the Stanford Surgery Department has developed and launched a wellness program that has been integrated into its resident training curriculum. The groundbreaking program, named in Greg’s honor, is designed to promote wellness and balance, which Greg exemplified throughout his life, and to promote a more supportive environment for physician trainees. A team from Stanford was invited by the ACGME to present the Balance in Life program to medical schools from around the country at its national conference (ACGME is the organization responsible for the accreditation of post-MD medical training programs within the United States). Balance in Life has been very well received by the Stanford residents and elicited a very positive response from the national medical community at ACGME. We are hoping the initiative will be used as a model for training programs throughout the US.
Greg had one of the brightest personal futures and groundbreaking careers ahead of him. We believe, however, that the professional experience he endured in the months before he died triggered a rapid, overpowering unraveling. In an effort to raise awareness about suicide, we think the following facts are important to share:
- About 35,000 people commit suicide each year in the U.S. This number reflects only those deaths reported, so it is likely that the actual number is much higher. More Americans die each year by suicide than by homicide or HIV/AIDS.
- Of the 35,000, a disproportionately high number are physicians: about 400 doctors per year kill themselves (again, probably an under-reported number).
- Depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation are widely experienced by doctors at one time or another in their careers. Major contributing factors include the:
- failure of the medical field to foster a more supportive environment for those struggling with these issues
- deeply ingrained stigma associated, in the profession, with seeking help
- widely held belief by physicians and physician trainees that seeking help will hinder their career trajectories and ability to obtain and retain certification.
To learn more and/or contribute, go to:
Medical Missions: http://mmfc.org/Events/FeldmanFund/GregFeldmanMemFund.htm
If you are more comfortable donating via phone or traditional mail, please see contact information below.
Medical Missions for Children (MMFC)
Stanford School of Medicine, Department of Surgery
Director of Finance and Administration
Stanford Medical Center
300 Pasteur Drive, Room M-121
Stanford, CA 94305-2200
We also welcome you to visit the beautiful memorial site Greg’s friends have created in his honor at: http://gregfeldmanmemorial.org/. Please feel free to send us additional stories, memories, photos or music related to share on the site by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are so grateful for everything each of you has done since the tragedy of Greg’s death and we greatly appreciate your willingness to consider joining us in supporting one or both of these important efforts.
The Feldman Family (Sid, Rhoda, Howard and Judith)
The pain of learning of Greg’s death is still so sharp; it is hard to realize that it is a year since his death. During the year I have often thought of sending something to his memorial, but could not address the sadness of doing so. Now is the time.
Greg stands out amongst all of the Parker students I had the pleasure of teaching for many reasons. Certainly his intellect and curiosity set him apart from many others. When many high school students were still finding their identities and sorting out their values, Greg was already such a fabulous human being. But one of my fondest memories of Greg sprang from his musical talents and knowledge that he shared so generously. When it was a lab day, Greg of course came prepared for the procedures and worked thoughtfully as he skillfully went about the experiment. But he also brought his Walkman loaded with some interesting tape. At some point during the procedure, he would call me over, hand me the headset and I was to guess the artist. He brought in tapes that varied from Sarah Vaughan to Santana. Sometimes I could correctly identify them, sometimes I could not. But I always looked forward to lab days and my music quizzes. Surely Greg taught us all in ways we shall treasure forever.
With great sympathy and admiration to Greg’s family and dear friends who have spent the year putting one foot in front of the other –
What gives me some comfort at this time is visualizing my son, Greg, as a meteor flashing across the sky, leaving a trail of sparks of light. These sparks of light are in you, his beloved friends and colleagues, and in us, his family. When I see you or hug you or hear from you, I connect with these sparks and, through them, with my beautiful son. His life was a gift beyond measure and, for thirty-three years, a blessing beyond compare.Thank you for your deeply touching and overwhelming demonstration of friendship, love, and support. Please look for Greg’s sparks within yourself and in each other. -Rhoda (Greg’s Mom) “Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince. And flights of angels sing
thee to thy rest.” (Hamlet, Act V, Scene ii)
Last year, Greg traveled to Gitwe, Rwanda to work with Medical Missions for Children. Greg’s friend Shannon, whom he met in Rwanda last year, is there now and sent this note:
. . . Just wanted to send you a message from Rwanda. Today is the last day of surgery in here. Greg has been here in spirit with us the whole time. I know you will be receiving this picture soon. It is a picture of the plaque that now hangs in the operating room here in honor of Greg. MMFC has put it on our facebook page. . . .
Greg is very missed here in Gitwe. Many have asked for him here. Just planted a tree in his memory in front of the hospital. The workers here said they will take good care of it. Will tell you more when get home. . . .
In my thoughts,
And here is the note from MMFC’s Facebook Page:
We love and miss you, our dear friend and colleague, Greg. This mission was for you. The ceremony, the river rock, the prayers, the tree, the plaque and a piece of every one of our hearts will remain here in Gitwe – where a part of your spirit will sleep peacefully – forever.
And a letter to the family and friends of Greg from Denny at the MMFC.
Dear Judith, Rhoda, Howard, one and all:This past Friday, March 19, our team had a memorial service for Greg it Gitwe, Rwanda. The service was outdoors, in front of the Gitwe Hospital, where we planted a tree in Greg’s memory.
The tree is the only tree in this yard, and we will watch it grow and grow it all the years to come.
The minister present even introduced us all to the gentleman who will care for the tree.
It was a beautiful and very moving time for all of us…all the team was in Rwanda after dedicating our mission to Greg.
Ready for this…traffic on the fronting road came to a full stop. We completed 77 operations on the poorest and most desperate of children and adults.
It seemed as if he was with us the entire time. When the ceremony was completed, we all saw the full moon break through…although still daylight, he showed up to shine on Greg’s tree. Next year of course we will look for the balloons, and now we have a recipe for the date( and a beverage of choice!). With love, admiration and peace, to one and all. Denny
I hope this finds you all well. Many of you have recently sent very sweet messages around today, Greg’s birthday (March 19). Your ongoing love and support continues to be greatly appreciated. To commemorate our beloved Greg on his birthday, my parents, Howard, Stacy, Ariel, Samantha, David, Shelby and I spent the evening together at my parents’ home. We ordered in Greg’s favorite food to scarf down as soon as possible upon returning to Chicago when he lived away — Mongolian beef, sesame chicken, and chicken fried rice from House of Hunan. We drank vodka gimlets, one of his favorite drinks. And we each wrote a note to Greg, attached it to the ribbon of a helium balloon and released them all at once in the sky in Lincoln Park, across from my parents’ apartment, our family home. We also told some Greg stories. We said the kaddish.
While it was obviously a bittersweet day and night, and our lives will now likely always be that way, it was as fitting a way as possible to memorialize our beloved Greg on his birthday and I think he was smiling down at us. I particularly felt his presence during the balloon part of the evening — when a cluster of balloons that had gotten stuck on the branches of a tall, old tree were blown free into the sky. We stood watching them float further and further west into the distance and there was something beautiful about that moment. Maybe we could all do this in years to come on March 19, wherever you are that day . . .
Sending you all wishes of love and peace.
-Judith, on behalf of the Feldmans