Expert Clinical Guidance at Skirball Hospice
Dr. David Wallenstein brings an exceptional personal commitment to his post as medical director of the Home's Skirball Hospice. A graduate of the University of Chicago's MSW program, Dr. Wallenstein began his career as a clinical social worker who cared for patients with terminal illnesses.
His decision to return to school for his medical degree in his mid-thirties came about after a clinical experience with an AIDS patient who was undergoing a severe reaction to a medication.
Wallenstein urged the attending physician to administer a higher dosage of pain relief, but was rebuffed by his colleague, who suggested that, if he wanted to practice medicine, he should go to medical school.
The remark confirmed his experience that, in order to direct the care of his patients, he needed to be a doctor. So, at the age of thirty-five, he accepted the challenge and applied to medical school. He received his degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical School.
Dr. Wallenstein went on to become a resident in anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and did his internal medicine residency at the University of Illinois Hospital. His training continued at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he was a Fellow in pain management and palliative care.
A background in internal medicine and pain management make Dr. Wallenstein uniquely aware of and sensitive to the needs of Skirball Hospice patients. "Understanding the physiology of pain and the interplay between chronic pain and psychological processes is vital," he says. "It may dictate the way you approach treatment of pain at the end of life."
How Dr. Wallenstein came to the field of hospice care suggests that early influences chart our destinies. As a high school student he was given an assignment to examine the life and work of a contemporary or historical figure who was inspired by their religious belief to perform a socially relevant act.
In the course of research, Wallenstein discovered the life and work of Dame Cecily Saunders, the British social worker who founded the modern hospice movement in the 1970s. In addition to creating a new concept and institution of specialized care for those with life-limiting illnesses, she realized that she could best help her patients by becoming a doctor.
The example of Cecily Saunders enrolling in medical school mid-career — and her inspired commitment to patients and families — was not lost on the student and later the professional David Wallenstein. Today, he combines a similar compassion and dedication with a high level of expertise for the benefit of Skirball Hospice patients and their families.
Dr. Wallenstein, who is also a staff physician at UCLA Palliative Care Service and an instructor at UCLA's Family Medicine International Medicine Graduate Program, was recently honored by the Southern California Cancer Pain Initiative and the City of Hope with the Excellence in Pain Management Award.
To learn more about the Jewish Home's Skirball Hospice, call 877.774.3040 or click here.