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Dr. Diane Fingold has ventured a long way from being a zoology
major at University of Massachusetts (Amherst). Her initial plans
of becoming a veterinarian changed to becoming a primary care
physician at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston after
winning a challenge from a professor during her undergraduate
studies led her to pursue a career in medicine. While taking a
required introductory botany course, the professor offered a book
as a prize to the student who received the highest grade on an
exam. Dr. Fingold was elated when she won, not only because of the
grade but because this offered her an introduction to Professor
Seymour Shapiro, who helped her ultimately decide on a career in
medicine. "Not only did he guide me through my education and helped
me get a job in a lab during college, but he was someone who was
really invested in me and my career." Professor Seymour's
investment in Dr. Fingold's career has extended well beyond her
undergraduate education. She has remained close to her mentor and
refers to him as a second grandfather to her children. When her
mother decided that she wanted to finish her Bachelor's degree at
age 50, Professor Seymour sponsored Dr. Fingold's mother to allow
her to participate in the University of Massachusetts rigorous
program called "University without Walls." The program allows
participants to earn their Bachelor's degree in a nontraditional
Dr. Fingold has been part of the Harvard Medical community since
receiving her medical degree in 1987. While enrolled, she enjoyed
several of the disciplines that she studied during her rotations.
"While I was in medical school, I was really blessed in the fact
that I loved lots of things that I was exposed to, there was not
one discipline that I had to specialize in." She was ultimately
drawn to primary care because of the opportunity it allowed her to
take care of the patient as a whole. "I realized that I wanted to
be an advocate for patients, and becoming an internist would allow
me to do that. Even if I can't solve a problem that a patient comes
to see me for, then I want to guide them to the person who can. For
me, it was all about the relationship with the patient."
Dr. Fingold completed her residency and postdoctoral training at
MGH and then completed a fellowship in medical education at Beth
Israel Deaconess Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She has
worked as an internist within the Massachusetts General Hospital
Primary Care Department of Medicine since completing her residency.
In addition to her work as a primary care physician within the MGH
health care system, Dr. Fingold is an Assistant Professor at
Harvard Medical School. For the past 20 years, she has been a
member of the Harvard Medical School faculty, teaching the course
Patient Doctor II that she co-directs with two other faculty
members. Second-year medical students are required to take the
course, which focuses on history taking and physical exams and
provides the students with their first hands-on clinical experience
in medical school. "One of the reasons that I keep teaching this
course year after year is the feeling of excitement when the
students eyes light up when they witness a patients' reflexes react
for the first time. It helps ground me and helps me to remember why
I am here and how lucky I am to be doing what I do."
Dr. Fingold splits her time between seeing patients in her
practice 3 days a week and teaching. She credits the flexibility
she has been afforded within her practice to allow her to balance
her duties as a physician and as a professor. She cross-covers her
patients with her course co-director and clinical partner so their
patients have proper coverage at all times and neither physician,
nor their practice, is unfairly burdened. They share a mutual
understanding that balancing career and family is very
Dr. Fingold enjoys the variety of patients that she sees and the
relationships that she has formed over the years. "I have patients
that I have seen for more than 20 years, and I have had the
opportunity to take care of three generations from the same family.
There is a special bond that forms when you have a patient who is
suffering and in need of care and your desire to help them is so
genuine because of that longstanding relationship. Even if the
patient is suffering from a terminal illness, you are still taking
care of that patient. You are still traveling with them along that
path and fighting the fight with them. It is a sense of
satisfaction that is hard to find in any other profession."
Dr. Fingold (right) with her husband, Paul Howard, and their
children, Leah and Ben at a Navajo Reservation in Kayenta, Arizona
where Dr. Fingold did a rotation while in medical school.
Although Dr. Fingold enjoys her hectic work schedule, she admits
that it is not without its challenges. "I think the most difficult
thing for me was learning how to balance everything. I realized
that I couldn't always have all of my paperwork done and my house
completely clean. You have to learn how to accept imperfection."
Through her ability to balance teaching and running a practice
along with taking care of her family, Dr. Fingold has been able to
keep her family as her number one priority.
Outside of her career, Dr. Fingold enjoys spending time with her
husband, son, and daughter. She finds gardening to be therapeutic
and spends many hours watching her son and daughter's sporting
events. She feels lucky to have an excellent work-life balance,
which her career in internal medicine has enabled her to have.
February 2012 Issue of IMpact
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