Dr. Donald Felitto’s fundamental mission in life has always been to help.
At home, it’s helping his family, including his two daughters, one now in college and the other working in the Washington, DC, area.
At his office, and at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, his mission is all about helping patients, especially those in his field of nephrology, which involves kidney disease and hypertension.
And, finally, as president of the L+M medical staff, Dr. Felitto endeavors to help his fellow doctors – all 430 of them! – in their relationships with each other, the changing world of healthcare, and with the hospital.
“It all comes down to helping, and it’s why the work I do is gratifying,” he says. “In critical care, you’re helping people, and in the office you’re helping people…And I hope, by the end of next year, when my term as president is over, people will also be able to say that I really helped the medical staff.”
Dr. Felitto grew up in Brooklyn. He went to St. Johns University in Queens with the idea of becoming a pharmacist. However, after graduating and working two years for a big drug company, where he was being groomed for management, he realized he didn’t want to be a businessman.
Dr. Felitto decided to go to medical school. He went to Mexico, earning a degree at the Universidad Del Noreste, and then returning to the U.S. for a fifth year of training at New York Medical College. At the end of his residency, Felitto sought out his specialty with a fellowship in nephrology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, NJ.
He practiced for two years in the Garden State, but Dr. Felitto was looking for something more; something different.
“I was looking around for a better place to bring up a family,” he says. “I wanted a suburban or rural area, and I found my way to the practice I’m in now, and I’ve been here now for 21 years.”
Today, Felitto is engrossed in his community, working out of a medical practice in Uncasville, living in East Lyme, rounding on critical care patients at L+M in New London, and representing the interests of doctors throughout southeastern Connecticut.
He puts in long days – and often long nights attending meetings – but he’s philosophical about it.
“It’s giving back,” he says. “I don’t really believe in not having time to do something. You make time.”
As a liaison between L+M’s top administrators and the medical staff, Dr. Felitto says it’s important to be at the meetings because it’s the best way to convey accurate information on all the latest developments at the hospital.
With a new chief of surgery, the possible acquisition of The Westerly Hospital, a new cancer center under construction, and numerous other projects and initiatives, Dr. Felitto says he is constantly trying to report the news.
“I’ve done as good a job as I can in educating the doctors about the changes that are going on in medicine and at the hospital,” he says. “The avenues I’ve tried to use are the medical staff meetings, the internet, and the mail. I’ve also gone to dinner with some doctors and I’ve actually had people at my home to try to help improve their relationship with the hospital.”
Dr. Felitto believes the hospital’s administration cares deeply about its relationship with the medical staff.
“From where I stand, the administrators have made absolutely every effort they can to improve relationships with the medical staff,” he says. “They see the importance of the doctors to the overall operations of the hospital.”
In his position, Dr. Felitto likes to take in the “big picture,” and, as he looks ahead, he feels optimistic.
“I anticipate that the future will be bright because the current administration is resilient,” he says. “They’re able to look at things imaginatively. They’ve had several recent examples of that, which include the cancer center, which is a partnership with Dana-Farber, which is excellent, and they’ve partnered with Yale for cardio-vascular services. So they’re not afraid to invest in new ideas.”
As for the possible purchase of The Westerly Hospital in early 2013, Dr. Felitto thinks history will prove it to be the right move – a move that will enable L+M to continue serving the region as an independent non-profit community hospital, with quality services but a personal touch, too.
“The alternative is to be purchased by a much larger entity, and any autonomy you might have working at a hospital will be completely eradicated by working for a big conglomerate,” Dr. Felitto says. “There may be a few years where it may be difficult to demonstrate the benefits (of buying Westerly), but, as the years go by, people are going to look back and say, ‘A job well done.’
“If there’s a chance to preserve the community hospital model,” he says, “your best chance of being part of that is being at this hospital.”
To learn more about Dr. Felitto, click here.