Dr. David Hurwitz is a walking representation of the adage, “think locally, act globally”. A California native, he spent nearly fifty years practicing medicine in the Los Angeles area before “retiring” to participate in medical volunteerism through The MAVEN Project.
When asked about his specialty, rheumatology, and why he chose it, Dr. Hurwitz replies, “Not half in jest, it’s because I like science fiction.”
Five decades ago, when Dr. Hurwitz was starting out in the field, rheumatology represented one of the new frontiers in medical science. At the time, and according to Dr. Hurwitz, even to some extent now, very little was known about the root causes of inflammatory diseases like arthritis and lupus. He notes he was particularly attracted by the high level of intellectual thought involved in diagnosing rheumatologic diseases, which often resemble one another, and the relative level of mystery surrounding the diseases themselves.
Dr. Hurwitz moved to California as a child in 1945, where he grew up in the shadow of the MGM studios (now Sony Pictures). His parents – a Syrian immigrant mother and Jewish American father – owned a jewelry store, but pushed him to pursue medicine because of his own interest in biological science.
After attending medical school at the University of California San Francisco, Dr. Hurwitz interned at the Los Angeles County University of Southern California Medical Center. At that time in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, young men were required to register in the military. After his internship, Dr. Hurwitz was placed in a uniformed, but non-combat role in the U.S. Public Health Service in Washington D.C., reviewing marketed pharmaceuticals for the Food and Drug Administration.
Following his service, Dr. Hurwitz moved back to the West Coast to complete his residency and fellowship in Los Angeles. From 1973 on, he practiced in multiple Kaiser Permanente locations in the area.
Since his retirement, Dr. Hurwitz has been pursuing his career-long interest in medical volunteerism. In 2015, after receiving an alumni network email, Dr. Hurwitz joined The MAVEN Project as one of the first physician volunteers.
Most of his day-to-day consults with The MAVEN Project involve routine rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and similar diseases, though occasionally a more urgent case – he recalls a case of a young man with a serious case of lupus – arises.
Regardless of the severity of the case, Dr. Hurwitz says that seeing and treating patients who otherwise could not meet a rheumatology specialist is a very rewarding process. His impact on clinic doctors – usually family practitioners stationed in remote locations and with little training in rheumatology – is a similarly impactful experience.
“Just about every time [I’ve seen a patient] I was able to educate the provider in some way.”
Dr. Hurwitz’ commitment to medical volunteerism is apparent throughout his career, and, with his unique specialty, provides a service not easily accessible in many communities.
As he says of the MAVEN Project, “It’s a good chance to volunteer to do something most other people can’t do.”
The above spotlight was written by MAVEN Project Intern Kavitha George, who is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley with degrees in cognitive science and journalism. She eventually plans to pursue graduate degrees in public health and journalism.
The MAVEN Project is setting out to highlight our physician volunteers by sharing physician “spotlights” in our monthly Physician e-Newsletter as well as seeking to publishing them in each physician’s local newspaper. We want to celebrate our physician volunteers and encourage other physicians to volunteer, too. Kavitha may be reaching out to you soon, and we hope you’ll say “yes!” when contacted by her to be interviewed.