Listening to the story of how retired Internal Medicine physician Rod Felber ended up volunteering at BCAP, transported me right back to the early days of HIV.
In 1991 Rod was working as the Associate Director of Internal Medicine Residency Training Program at San Joaquin General Hospital in Stockton, California. At the time there were only two drugs to combat HIV: AZT and DDI. An HIV diagnosis was essentially a death sentence. Although the area wasn’t experiencing as much HIV as nearby San Francisco and Sacramento, HIV incidence was still significant among the hospital’s diverse and mainly low-income patients; many of whom had risks of HIV transmission and acquisition.
Rod applied to be part of a course initiated by IDSA (Infectious Disease Society of America) called APEX (AIDS Physician Experience), in order to learn all he could about how to best treat his HIV patients. He was one of only twenty physicians in 1991 that were accepted from across the country to participate and benefit from this innovative program. Among other experiences, APEX involved training for a month in Ward 86. Named for its location on the 6th floor of Building 80 on the San Francisco General Hospital campus, Ward 86 “became the first dedicated HIV clinic in the country.” The training also included a week at the CDC in Atlanta.
Rod soaked up everything he could from these leaders in HIV care, then returned to his position at the county hospital to implement what he had learned. He participated in the creation of the local Ryan White Consortium whose members included representatives from the San Joaquin AIDS Foundation (an AIDS service organization like BCAP), the San Joaquin Public Health Department, and a group called Agricultural Workers of San Joaquin located on Channel Street in Stockton it was also known as Channel Medical Center. Rod started the San Joaquin County Hospital ID clinic which shared space with the Oncology Clinic and was dedicated to the treatment of patients with HIV. The providers from the clinic met twice a month with case managers from the San Joaquin AIDS Foundation, Public Health and Channel Medical Group to discuss patient cases. At its peak under Rod’s direction, the clinic for the treatment of HIV-related diseases was seeing over 350 patients. Rod left the hospital and this clinic in 2005. In his last 10 years of practice he served as the Medical Director of a Hospitalist Program in Lodi, California. He was named Team Health’s National Hospitalist Medical Director of the Year in 2008. He retired and moved to Broomfield, Colorado in 2016.
Describing himself as “just a regular guy who wanted to stay busy after retiring,” Rod learned about openings on BCAP’s Board of Directors during an appointment with a representative from Foothills United Way’s Volunteer Connection. He applied, met with former BCAP Executive Director Ana Hopperstad, and over lunch they decided it was an excellent match and the process moved forward.
Rod currently has three volunteer roles at BCAP: he is on the Board of Directors; he is the newly named Chair of BCAP’s Programs Committee and he assists clients in BCAP’s Longmont Food Pantry every other Monday. As a Board member, he especially enjoys hearing about BCAP’s education and prevention efforts—a “switch from the treatment side of things.” His interactions with the health provider partners and other community members on ProComm keep things very interesting for him there, and lastly, he gets satisfaction from learning what different shoppers like and pointing those items out to them when they come to select their groceries in BCAP’s Longmont Food Pantry.
Rod is a life-long learner. He is very interested in finding ways to enrich the BCAP community with continuing education pieces to keep us all as current as possible. BCAP is honored and grateful to have Rod’s input through his diverse volunteer involvement. His medical experience and historic perspective enrich us daily. Rod’s simple reminder to us all to “Keep an open mind and caring heart for the people we serve,” is advice he clearly lives by.