Merrill Irving Feldman MD, DMD FACR
Dr. Merrill Feldman was a distinguished radiation oncologist and pioneering cancer researcher who practiced medicine for more than 61 years. He was also a highly decorated veteran of World War II who served as a combat medic in the 95th Division. He received the Bronze and Silver Stars, two Purple Hearts and the French Legion of Honor for his military service. A member of numerous professional societies including the American Cancer Society, the American College of Radiology, the Massachusetts Medical Society, Dr. Feldman also was a devoted family man as well as an accomplished sailor, athlete, scholar and civic leader.
Dr. Feldman was born in Dorchester, MA in 1925 and attended Boston public schools including the Boston Latin School where he was also involved in the Junior ROTC program required of all the students in that era. He was one of the original Newsboys who thanks to Harry E Burroughs and his Newsboys Foundation was given the opportunity to attend Agassiz Village summer camp in Maine. After graduation in 1941, he attended the University of New Hampshire, enrolling at the age of 16. At UNH he majored in Pre-Medicine and also received ROTC required training. His college experience was cut short in the Sophomore year by the WWII call up and he entered the Army in May 1943.
After basic training at Camp Pickett,VA and a stint at the Georgia State Teachers College in Statesboro, GA and the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, VA with the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), he was assigned in March 1943 to the Co. F, 2nd Battalion,377th Infantry Regiment, of the 95th Division at Camp Indiantown Gap as a Company Aid Man (combat medic). Dr. Feldman served as a member of General Patton's famed Division who were called "The Bravest of the Brave" for their heroic efforts during the war. Dr. Feldman participated in the Normandy invasion, landing on Omaha Beach on 15 September, 1944. Among the many achievements of the 95th included conquering the heavily fortified city of Metz, France, a city that had never been conquered by an invading army. The defeated German commander called the 95th the "Iron Men of Metz." During the attack, Dr. Feldman was wounded by shrapnel on Nov. 9, 1944, but refused to return to the rear for treatment. Instead he set up a forward Aid Station in a bombed out barn 50 yards from the German lines surrounded by mine fields to treat the seriously wounded. The next morning he led a group of German prisoners as litter bearers back to the rear delivering the wounded GI's to the Battalion Surgeon and the prisoners to the Military Police. For these actions, he received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart awards. The Division continued from France to fight through to the Saar valley in Germany.
Dr. Feldman's unit fought through Germany and the Battle of the Bulge. During battle on April 2, 1945 near Augustdorf, Germany, Dr. Feldman sustained a gunshot wound to his left hand while racing to save his best friend Sgt. Otto Rich of Webster, Mass who had been shot and killed. He refused evacuation until the battle was over and then was flown to the 74th General Hospital in France for surgery. For his gallantry in action, he was awarded the Silver Star and second Purple Heart medals. Dr. Feldman rejoined his unit before the trip back to the States where it was stationed in Camp Shelby, Mississippi to get ready for the planned invasion of Japan.. With VJ day in August the 95th Division was demobilized and on Oct. 25, 1945, he was honorably discharged from the United States Army. His European Theater Ribbon has 3 Battle Stars- Northern France, Rhineland and Central Europe. He was also recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross for leading an attack in the closing battle at Augustdorf but his status as a Medic under the Geneva Convention made him ineligible for the award. The 95th liberated prisoner of war and concentration camps during their campaign through Germany and are recognized in Yad Vashem in Israel.
Following the end of the war, Dr. Feldman transferred to Harvard College (class of '47) and graduated from Harvard University Medical and Dental Schools in 1952. Following internship at the San Francisco General Hospital, he completed his residency at Yale with a specialization in Radiology in 1956.
He received an American Cancer Society travelling fellowship in 1956-1957 for additional study and training in the radiation treatment of cancer including a 9 month appointment at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, England. Upon his return to the States in 1957, Dr. Feldman began practicing at Lynn Hospital in Lynn, MA. There he established the first cancer center, which was fully funded and complete with all the available treatment modalities. In 1972, he was asked by Boston University to set up a residency program for physicians trained in radiation therapy. Dr. Feldman served as Professor of Radiology and Chair of the Department of Radiation Medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine from 1972 until his retirement in 1989.
While at Boston University Dr. Feldman joined the pioneering efforts led by Dr. Bernard Fisher from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School to conduct clinical trials to improve the cancer treatment. He was the only radiation oncologist who was a principal investigator for the federally funded National Surgical Adjunct Breast and Bowel Project (NSABBP), which was created to find new methods of treating breast and bowel cancer and served on the executive committee. Among the many achievements of the NSABBP were studies that demonstrated that lumpectomy (minimal surgery) combined with radiation and chemotherapy were as effective as the traditional radical Halsted mastectomy, a procedure that was associated with chronic pain, disfigurement and many chronic complications. Dr. Feldman also served as a consultant to the National Cancer Institute and was a member of the committees that established many of the major cancer centers in the United States including the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Connecticut.
In 1989, he ended his permanent practice and began providing locum tenens services full time through CompHealth where he served for a number of years as the radiation oncology medical director. Dr. Feldman accepted over 100 assignments and provided expert care to cancer patients throughout the United States.
Dr. Feldman was a life long community activist and leader. He was a member of the Swampscott Town Meeting and member and Chair of the School Committee. He was a lifelong Democrat who most recently participated in the Elizabeth Warren for Senate campaign. He was a founder and Board member of Temple Emanu-el in Marblehead, MA.
He married Avis Goldstein of New Bedford in February 1952 He was a devoted father to Mitchell B. Feldman & his wife Karen of Ipswich, Dr. James A. Feldman & his wife Dr. Eileen Wolf Feldman of Framingham and Richard A. Feldman & his wife Cathy Baker of Seattle, WA. Loving brother of Louise Radack of Swampscott. Cherished grandfather of Stephanie, Hope, Allison, Rachel and Anna Feldman.
He and his wife Avis sailed, skied and traveled around the world. He was a member of groups that led medical missions to the former Soviet Union and China to improve cancer care. He was a member and leader of numerous sailing associations including the Blue Water Sailing Club, the Power Squadron and the Marblehead Yacht Club. He excelled in tennis and squash, including his efforts on the Harvard Club Red SquashTeam. A devoted alumni, he was active in the Harvard, Harvard Medical school and the Boston Latin School alumni associations.
Dr. Feldman was an active learner throughout his life. He participated in Harvard Kennedy School of Government programs. He loved music, the theater and arts. With Avis they followed the Boston Symphony for more than 50 years as well as the many performances of the Boston Conservatory and other groups they enjoyed. He loved gardening, chocolate and movies, especially those by the Marx brothers, W. C. Fields, Woody Allen and many others.
Dr. Feldman was a leader in the war against fascism and the war against cancer. He was an exceptional man who lived and extraordinary life. He was part of the Greatest Generation who devoted his life and his career in service to his country. He practiced medicine until shortly before his death at the age of 88 years.
Dr. Feldman was deeply committed to Judaism and this was an important part of his legacy. As a soldier in WW II he was a member of the 95th Division that liberated a slave labor concentration camp at Warstein on 4/6/1945 where he observed massive atrocities by the German SS guards. His unit is recognized in Yad Vashem as one of the liberators. Later in life Dr. Feldman reported that one of his most moving experiences was returning to the city of Metz, France to be honored in a service at the Temple. The city of Metz had never been conquered by an invading army. Under German occupation, Jews had been persecuted, the temples of Metz had been defiled and the main temple was used as a warehouse. Dr. Feldman felt that being honored in the rebuilt temple was one of the highlights of his life. Dr. Feldman was a founding member and served on the Board of Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead, MA. One of his regrets was that he would not be able to attend the Bat Mitzvah of his fifth granddaughter in Seattle, WA in June.
Services at Temple Emanu-El, 393 Atlantic Avenue, Marblehead on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 11 AM. Interment at Temple Emanu-El Memorial Park, Danvers. Memorial observance will be held at his late residence on Wednesday & Thursday from 1-4 & 7-9 PM. In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy in his memory may be donated to the American Cancer Society, 30 Speen Street, Framingham, MA 01701or to the Karin Grunebaum Cancer Research Foundation, 85 Sherman Street, #8, Cambridge, MA 02140. Arrangements by Stanetsky-Hymanson Memorial Chapel, Salem. For online condolences, please visit www.stanetsky.com