Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NYC AIDS Hero, Dr. Paul Bellman, is Retiring

This is a trend of concern to many longtime AIDS survivors. Our doctors, who've cared for and closely collaborated with us keeping us alive and thriving over many years, are retiring. In April, my long-term physician, Dr. Fred Strauss, exited from serving patients at the Castro Mission Health Center.

Now, word comes from New York City that AIDS doctor and hero Dr. Paul Bellman, pictured, is closing his practice at the end of the year. He has snail-mailed the follow letter to his patients:

(Click to enlarge.)

I've had dealings with Paul over the years, not as a patient, but in our shared HIV prevention and treatment concerns and I found him to be dedicated and passionate advocate, qualities I'm sure he brought to be in caring for people living with HIV and AIDS.

My friend and dynamic AIDS treatment advocate Mike Barr, and soon to be former patient, shared some thoughts about Paul and his work:

He was also one of the few good physicians left who would agree to see ADAP patients. God only knows who they will find to take care of them now - but again I suppose the Affordable Care Act eventually will render that point moot? But what do they do in the meantime?

His practice was also great but perhaps not unique in that everything was under one roof: phlebotomy, infusion therapy, etc. his phlebotomists, in particular, were greatly loved and famous for their conviviality, generosity, patience and charm. Where in the world will we ever find that to replicate?

Also, many HIV docs in the city are not accepting new patients - especially, as you might imagine the really good ones (to the extent that any really great HIV doctors exist anymore!).

Let's hope his patients are able to transfer their care to new doctors without too much stress and worry. Many thanks to Paul and his staffers for their years of unstinting service to gay men and people with AIDS.


Unknown said...

Paul has been my doctor ever since Joe Sonnabend retired and I, too, today received the notice of the closure of his practice. Paul is a great doctor, compassionate, patient and listens carefully. When I would see him, I always felt like he truly wanted to learn from my experience dealing with HIV and what he was learning from his patients shaped the care he provided. I'm not sure where I'll go for my treatment, but I know I'll miss Paul's care.

Anonymous said...

Paul has been my doctor for 8 years. The experience with him and his team has been extraordinary. Anyone needing a real boost should take time to read his essay Vanquishing AIDS: Notes on Ending the Epidemic in America. MD It is my blueprint in dealing with HIV, practical, inspiring, challenging and hopeful… words that describe Paul.

Barry Nevins said...

Thanks for posting this Michael. I too got the letter and I've been very depressed about it. I have been with Dr. B for over 20 years. (In all these years, I've never called him Paul, I just wasn't comfortable with that). He has saved my life numerous times and I cannot imagine how I'm going to deal with not having him to turn to. I truly love him and all of his staff. They have been my guardian angels. I hope to be able find another competent and experienced doctor who I can trust. But I know I will never experience a doctor-patient relationship like the one I have with Dr. B. I have not been in to see him yet because I'm feeling so emotional about having to say goodbye to him. :-(

Michael Petrelis said...

Hi Barry, I'm glad to see POZ has picked up on the retirement of our hero doctor - Paul Bellman. It's humbling to hear from his patients such as you about all he's done to help keep them alive. He will be missed when he closes his practice.

Anonymous said...

I too was a patient of Dr.B, but I, after my own experiences,do not share the same opinions, regarding the care I received. For one thing, he never allowed me enough time to discuss my health status (approx. 3 minutes total), always answered his phone while I sat there, and with-out any discussion with me, commonly dismissed me with a waive of his hand. I was not asked to return, to begin our visit. The last straw was when I opened a letter by both him and the "heavy-set" associate. It was addressed to a long since closed hospital, which, along with indistinct pronouncements,had detailed false information about me, and an unbelievable inaccurate, falsely documented scenario of what became my last office visit. To this day, I remain shocked by what was done to me, but, I have, ideas of what his motivation was. So, I'm certain he knows the reason for the subterfuge,I have said my piece,and "happy retirement" Dr. Bellman.

Anonymous said...

I just posted a comment very different from all the others. Obviously my non pro missive was not allowable as per "comment moderation". Not everyone loves Dr. Bellman, due to his own actions.

Anonymous said...

I Did not have a good expirience with him eaither, but I would like to find the other doctor that was working there,

Jaime Kaplan said...

I worked with Dr. Bellman. I started when I was 18. AZT was the only drug on the market, and DDI was in clinical trials. I conducted those trials single-handedly. I call him one of the Founding Fathers of combination therapy, but he would not have been if I hadn't found the meds for him. I worked with him 7 years until the Bipolar Disorder I developed from helping do many people who died anyway, made me collapse into a hospital. Dr. Bellman was very difficult to work for at that time. He just seemed like an angry man. But 3 years into my doctorate in psychology, I can see clearly it was paranoia over a perceived potential to be taken advantage of.

If I have run the delaverdine trial, he would not have published an article about its efficacy in combination. But the in the office were paid more. His pretentious office manager was flown around the world on Bellman's dime, whereas for 3 years in a row I got the same $1,000 bonus. Considering inflation, my bonus was going down. I was often treated like the straight, white girl who was circling the office in the turnip truck because I hadn't fallen off yet.

I went on to get a Master's in Public Administration specializing in Health Policy and worked for the City of New York in Quality Management where I reviewed physician performance, among other things. To this day, I think he marginalizes me and is not in touch with the fact that, if we were working at a hospital together, I would be reviewing his performance. I could do that now, but I have more class than to do so. I did things he was supposed to so and freed him up to see more patients. I don't think he gives me an ounce of credit for where he is today in research.

Jaime Kaplan, MPA