Thursday, October 21, 2021, 06:00pm - 07:00pm
Program type: Lecture
Location: Blanchard Community Library
Join us at the Blanchard Community Library on October 21, 2021 from 6-7pm for an author talk and book signing with author of Near Death Experiences and Narrow Escapes, Dr. Gary Feldman.
Dr. Feldman is a retired local pediatrician and geneticist who specialized in the chronic illness and disability in children. He served as medical director of California Children’s Services and Tri Counties Regional Center for Developmental Disabilities before becoming Ventura County Health Officer.
The memoir, Near Death Experiences and Narrow Escapes, arose out of stories told to his youngest granddaughter, Leila, the one most interested in his life. Once she learned he had had many near-death experiences, she was hooked and demanded a new tale every time she saw him. Some of the stories are sad, some are silly, some are frightening, some truly bizarre, but all touch on what it means to be resilient given how much of life is determined by luck.
Gary has led an extraordinary life. He went to MIT, majoring mathematics and then to Stanford in Computer Science. After helping to build a time-sharing system for a psychologist studying how autistic children can be helped by interacting via a computer terminal, Gary decided to go to medical school, intending to become a psychiatrist. He was married by this time and had two daughters, so this was not an easy decision. He says, “The psychiatrists at Stanford were interesting but very very strange.” And so, he found he was more interested in pursuing a residency and fellowship in Pediatrics and Behavioral Pediatrics/Child Psychology.
His arrived in Ventura, in 1976, after a year at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco, to work at Tri-Counties Regional Center for Developmental Disabilities. He says, “I found that many of my patients had genetic disorders, often undiagnosed.” That observation led to an informal fellowship in genetics at UCLA and then to board certification in Medical Genetics.
In 1993 he became the Ventura County Health Officer. Four years later he was recruited by the County of Riverside to run their Health Department. In his ten years in Riverside his job expanded beyond Public Health to include Ambulatory Care, Environmental Health, Emergency Medical Services, and Animal Services.
Returning to Ventura in 2007, he reopened his genetics consulting practice, where he saw patients within the county, as well as consulting for local pediatricians in many regions of Southern California.
The Feldmans spent much of their vacation time over the thirty-five years he was in active medical practice traveling with agencies like Interplast (now called ReSurge) volunteering in South and Central America and Asia doing reconstructive surgery on burns, injuries and congenital defects, thirty-two missions in all. His job on those trips was to protect the patients from the surgeons and keep them alive after surgery. Often his family would be part of the team. During their eighteen trips to Ecuador, their younger daughter met and later married one of the local medical students.
Their extensive volunteering and travel ended abruptly when, on a lecture tour in Viet Nam, in 2009, a cliff gave way and sent Gary down a three-story drop. Considering himself lucky to be alive at all, he spent the next three years in a wheelchair enduing the long process of mending his shattered leg via multiple surgeries. Now walking again, he sails frequently, kayaks and bicycles.
His recuperation time gave him the opportunity finally to learn bridge, a lifelong goal going back to his parents who were avid players. Advancing rapidly, he is on the hunt for gold master points in the quest of becoming a life master. He says he hopes he lives long enough (“or gets better faster”) to achieve that goal.
COVID-19 changed much about how we work and play. It gave Gary the time to write, since so much of normal life was foreclosed. So, with lots of time on his hands, Gary co-authored the book, The COVID-19 Solutions Guide: Health, Wealth, Technology, and the Human Spirit, writing the chapters on the science of the pandemic and the mathematics of pandemic modeling. That book, along with Near Death Experiences and Narrow Escapes, is available on Amazon.
Copies will also be available for purchase the evening of the event.