Angels on Maybank, Dr. David Peterseim

PetersenDr. David Peterseim, who prefers to be called Dave, has quite a background in both general and cardiac surgery. He graduated from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in 1988. He went on to do his general surgery residency and cardiothoracic surgery fellowship at Duke Medical School completing his study in 1997. He then became a faculty member of Penn State Medical School at Hershey Medical Center serving as an Assistant Professor of Cardiothoracic surgery where he stayed for two years. He came to Charleston in 1999, where he performed as a cardiothoracic surgeon at Roper Hospital from 1996 to 2013. His wife, who is also a doctor, specializes in pediatric ophthalmology.

After 15 years of keeping what must have been a grueling job as a surgeon, his wife suggested they both go to Costa Rica for a year’s stint doing a free medical clinic, him as a general surgeon and her as an ophthalmologist.  They took two of their three children with them, leaving the one behind who was in college. He enjoyed his time at the free clinic as it was allowing him to give back to people less fortunate who were so in need of medical attention. He and his family all learned how to speak Spanish. He then went on to Peru, where he and his wife worked in an Anne Sullivan school. Anne Sullivan was the woman who spent a lifetime with Helen Keller, teaching her how to communicate despite the fact she was both blind and deaf. The Anne Sullivan school works with children who are disabled, helping them gain confidence and work with their disabilities, so they can eventually enter the job market and care for themselves.

When Dave returned to Charleston, he turned his life in a quite different direction. He decided that instead of being a cardiac surgeon he would become a stay at home Dad. He has loved being at home with his children, being there when they get out of school, coaching his children’s’ soccer team, acting as an assistant scout master for his son, helping his daughter get to violin practice on a regular basis. This is quite a different life style than the one he had prior to going to Costa Rica.

He did not want to give up medicine, so he looked for a clinic where he could donate his time and use his Spanish. Through his contacts in the medical world, he found the Barrier Island Free Medical Clinic where he now donates one half-day a week. The Barrier Island Free Medical Clinic is located on Maybank Highway and treats patients in poverty without insurance at no charge.

The patients Dave treats at the Clinic are varied in their needs. A typical day will see him treating a variety of problems, like dealing with the medical condition of a homeless man who lives in his car, or a 21 year old lady whom he diagnosed as being pregnant. He hadn’t diagnosed a pregnancy since he was a medical student. He treated a woman who had a large subcutaneous abscess on the back of her neck draining the abscess, washing it out and filling the pocket with clean gauze. He instructed her daughter in how to change the gauze which needed to be done daily. These are all a far cry from the types of patient problems he dealt with as a cardiothoracic surgeon.

He finds he is enjoying the practice of general medicine. In the summer, he donates his time to Camp Seagull, in Arapahoe, North Carolina. It is a camp for some 800 kids with only four doctors on hand to treat their many problems. He recalls sewing a lip back on to a child that had suffered a severe laceration. He helped in the treatment of a child with second-degree burns over 80% of his body because of some medication he was taking.

He is not sure what the future holds for him when his children are off to college. He feels the call of general medicine, but doesn’t know, at this juncture in his life, what his practice of medicine will be. One thing is definite. He is one of those angels on Maybank, the doctors, nurses and staff that volunteer their time to treat some 400 patients per month free of charge. He is part of the miracle on Maybank.

Submitted by: Barbara Burgess

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