Dr. David Reisfeld was just 13 years old when a family doctor making a house call diagnosed the pain in his side as appendicitis.
No one at the time could have guessed that the young Reisfeld – about to go under the knife for an appendectomy – would eventually go on to medical school, become a surgeon, and ultimately perform thousands of similar operations on his own patients.
Today, though, as one of Lawrence + Memorial Hospital’s veteran general surgeons, Reisfeld can look back and see that his childhood medical episode proved to be a seminal moment in guiding the future of his career.
“It’s funny,” he says. “I don’t think we always know where we get the bug to do certain things, but as far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a physician, and for some reason I always wanted to be a surgeon.
“When I had my appendix out at 13, I remember the whole episode so clearly. I thought the whole thing was amazing. I wasn’t scared. I just thought the whole thing was fascinating.”
Dr. Reisfeld’s interest in medicine never wavered as he pursued a medical degree at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn and then continued his surgical training at Montefiore Medical Center, affiliated with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in the Bronx.
Dr. Reisfeld practiced in New York City for several years after completing his training in general surgery, but the biggest move of his career was about to happen. In 1990, he decided to leave the big city and come to New London, joining a practice with Dr. Dean Willis, another veteran surgeon on the L+M staff.
“I was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island,” he says. “I spent a long time in New York, and when you’re young, that’s great, but when you’re older and married and starting a family, you look for a smaller quieter community.”
Dr. Reisfeld never regretted his move to southeastern Connecticut.
“It has been a wonderful place to raise a family, and my wife loves it here, too,” he says. “We’ve raised two boys, and it has been a great opportunity professionally and a wonderful place to practice general surgery.”
General surgery appealed to many young medical school students in the 1970s and ’80s, Dr. Reisfeld says, because it was a broad and diverse field, whereas today many surgeons are highly specialized.
“The scope has narrowed,” he says, “but people have been predicting the demise of general surgery for a long time, and it never seems to happen. That’s because we still do a lot of things that other surgeons don’t do.”
Whether it’s removing an appendix, cancers of the colon or the breast, removing a skin cancer or a gall bladder, Dr. Reisfeld has years of experience.
Dr. Reisfeld says the personal rewards of his work might have been less satisfying if he’d stayed at a big city hospital, where patients typically come in for an episodic problem and are often never seen again.
“In a community hospital setting, it’s very personal,” he says. “General surgery is sort of the primary care of the surgical world. It’s episodic in nature, but, on the other hand, you often act in a primary care mode and see patients over and over again. You become very involved in the community. You take care of family members of patients that you’ve had, and you see those families and they get comfortable with you. It’s a very rewarding.”
When he’s not busy at the hospital, Dr. Reisfeld says he plays a little golf and tennis and enjoys relaxing with his family (including his dog, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel). He’s also a sports buff – and a proud fan of New York Mets, as well as his sons’ college teams, the Wolverines of the University of Michigan and the Tar Heels of the University of North Carolina.
He also enjoys 1950s and ’60s jazz, which he sometimes plays as part of his focus and preparation before the start of an operation. “It’s the kind of music that annoys everyone else in the operating room,” he jokes.
Dr. Reisfeld says his years at L+M have gone by “in a hurry,” but he looks forward to at least another decade of surgery before he thinks about retirement.
“I love the hospital,” he says. “It’s an excellent place. I feel proud to have spent my career all in one hospital. There has been so much turmoil in healthcare, and it’s nice to go through it in one place, and to have some consistency, even as things are changing. The people I’ve worked with have been great, and L+M has been a nice anchor in my life. It’s really like an extended family.”
To learn more about Dr. Reisfeld, click here.