Carmel Valley resident heads Rady’s pediatric GI division
By Arthur Lightbourn
Dr. Ariel Feldstein, 38, a new resident of Carmel Valley, is the father of four young children, including triplets.
He’s also a pediatric physician and scientist recognized for his innovative research and treatment of children with liver diseases and for inventing non-invasive diagnostic procedures to make a child’s clinical experience easier and less painful.And he’s the newly recruited chief of the Pediatric Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at Rady Children’s Hospital, the largest children’s hospital in California and the largest source of comprehensive children’s medical services, including outpatient clinics, in San Diego.
Feldstein took up his new position at Rady’s two months ago after serving seven years on the pediatric staff of the renowned Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, the last three years of which as director of pediatric research.
We interviewed him in his office at Rady’s main hospital on Children’s Way.
He is definitely a man with a mission.
His philosophy of living and working is simple: “Do things you feel passionate about; don’t be afraid of changes; learn from your failures and successes; and surround yourself with people who inspire you and push you to be better.”
Last year, Rady’s gastroenterology division conducted 15,000 outpatient and inpatient visits and performed more than 2,100 procedures. With 19 specialists on staff, the division also operates outpatient clinics at five locations, including the main hospital and Rady’s facilities in Escondido, Encinitas, Oceanside and Murrieta.
“My vision,” Feldstein said, “is to continue to strengthen what is being done at Rady’s and in the next several years for it to become one of the Top Five programs in the country.”
Rady’s gastroenterology division recently ranked #31 among 177 U.S. children’s hospitals in a recent U.S. News & World Report survey to identify the top children’s hospitals in the country in 10 pediatric specialties.
Asked how he intends to accomplish his goal of getting into the “Top Five,” he said: “We have just recruited a director for a new motility center for the testing of children with digestive disorders that we are opening later this fall; and we are in the process of recruiting a new director for the liver transplant program; and we are creating a new inflammatory bowel disease center.
“With these three comprehensive centers, our goal is to provide the best possible care for children with these conditions and, at the same time, to innovate and find new treatments and new non-invasive tests to diagnose and monitor these diseases.”
Nationally, the numbers of children suffering from GI-related diseases, including liver diseases, has been growing “exponentially,” over the last two decades, Feldstein said, “and we believe that this in part is related to the obesity epidemic.”
The most common liver disease in children, he said, is called the fatty liver disease, directly related to overweight and obesity and associated with insulin resistance and diabetes.
Statistics indicate that 10 percent of children in the U.S. have fatty liver disease. “The vast majority of them have a benign condition;” he said. “however, a percentage of them have significant, progressive liver disease, with the increased risk of progressing to cirrhosis of the liver eventually requiring liver transplantation.
“Those are the children for whom we are a national referral center here at Rady’s,” he said, “and part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) consortium selected to study this disease.”
Children diagnosed with liver fatty disease are treated with an intense, lifestyle program that includes diet, exercise, and counseling. “There are no medications that have been approved specifically for the treatment of the disease — and that is an area of intense research that we are significantly a part of. We are trying to identify new, safe medications that can be used because we know, unfortunately, that the lifestyle approach only works for a small percentage of children.”
Feldstein was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the son of a cardiologist. He remembers, as a child, going to his father’s office and helping out in any way he could. Both he and his older sister followed in their father’s footsteps and became physicians. His sister is a breast pathologist in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“It was in my genes,” he acknowledged, “and there was no doubt that was what I wanted to do.”
His grandparents were Russian Jews who had fled persecution in Russia before the 1917 Russian Revolution and had immigrated to Argentina.
He grew up post-Peron Argentina. It was a time of transition from military dictatorships to democracy, he said, and as such, was, politically and economically, a chaotic time, “as is typical in Argentina, but it was a time of freedom, which was unique.”
By 1983, when Feldstein was 11, he said, Argentina had passed through its period of military rule, and had become a democracy.
He earned his M.D. from the University of Buenos Aires, School of Medicine, with honors, in 1997.
At the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, he did a postdoctoral fellowship in liver pathobiology, a residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, completed in 2004.
He subsequently joined the Cleveland Clinic where he developed a pediatric preventative metabolic clinic with a multi-disciplinary team of doctors and healthcare professionals who provided a comprehensive approach to preventing the onset/progression of metabolic complications of obesity in children.
In 2008, he was appointed director of pediatric research at the Cleveland Clinic and served as such until joining Rady’s.
To keep in shape, the youthful-looking physician runs four miles a day, three or four times a week, and plays tennis.
He’s an avid reader of contemporary and classic novels, and South American literature.
Name: Ariel E. Feldstein, M.D.
Distinction: As a leading physician/scientist in pediatric hepatology (liver diseases among children), Dr. Feldstein recently joined the staff of Rady’s Children’s Hospital as Chief of the Pediatric Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. He is also a professor of pediatrics at UCSD.
Resident of: Carmel Valley
Born: Buenos Aires, Argentina, 38 years ago
Education: M.D., with honors, University of Buenos Aires, School of Medicine, 1997; Postdoc Fellow, Department of Physiology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, 1997-98; residency in pediatrics, Mayo Clinic, 1998-2001; Fellow in pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, Mayo Clinic, 2001-04.
Family: He and his wife, Bettina, (nee Papouchado), met in medical school in Buenos Aires. His wife is a pathologist. They have four children; Lucia, 4, and triplets, Natalie, Emily, and Dylan, 8, students at Sycamore Ridge School.
Interests: Running, tennis, reading contemporary and classic novels, and South American literature.
Current reading: “Freedom,” a novel by American writer Jonathan Franzen, and re-reading the classic Russian novel, “The Brothers Karamazov,” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky,
Favorite getaway: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Favorite foods: “Being an Argentinean, the barbeque is my weakness. I have to confess that.”
Favorite films: Woody Allen films
Philosophy: “My philosophy is: ‘Do things you feel passionate about; don’t be afraid of changes; learn from your failures and successes; and surround yourself with people who inspire you and push you to be better.”
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