In Memory of Frieda Feldman, MD

January 16, 2020
Dr. Frieda Feldman
Frieda Feldman, MD

Dr. Frieda Feldman, musculoskeletal radiology pioneer, professor emeritus at Columbia University, and chief of Columbia Radiology's Division of Musculoskeletal Imaging for more than 20 years, passed away on Sunday, January 12th, 2020. She will be missed by all friends and colleagues.

Dr. Feldman was a founding member of the International Skeletal Society, a passionate educator who was known for her sense of humor and stimulating lectures, and a contributor of many important publications and lectures to the field.

A graduate of New York University School of Medicine in 1957, she completed a residency at Bellevue Hospital Center. She joined the Department of Radiology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in the 1960’s and was a valued faculty member for over 50 years.

Her accomplishments—and they were legendary—were internationally recognized and were in large part responsible for Columbia Radiology's decades-long reputation as an unsurpassed academic department. She was one of the major contributors to the evolving literature on skeletal radiology and was responsible for the accumulation of much of the knowledge on which the specialty has long depended. Dr. Feldman authored over 250 papers, including her last paper in 2012 on nonneoplastic lesions that simulate primary tumors of bone.

Dr. Feldman was the recipient of gold medals from the American Roentgen Ray Society and the International Skeletal Society and served as president of the New York Roentgen Society from 1994 to 1995. She was a much valued guest lecturer for many US national societies as well as foreign countries, including Switzerland and Brazil.

She was also widely known as a teacher and mentor to many young radiologists who have gone on to become leaders in musculoskeletal radiology throughout the country. “Her commitment to resident teaching was strong and constant,” remembers long-time friend and professor emeritus, Jeffrey Newhouse, MD. “One-on-one sessions with her at the viewbox were much valued by all, and she made it a practice to attend every teaching conference the department conducted, whether or not they were pertinent to her specialty.”  

“(Freida) was a superb musculoskeletal radiologist, a great teacher, and a natural speaker,” says another colleague, John Austin, MD. “She had a marvelous sense of humor and loved to make an audience laugh. Her sense of humor tended to be risqué, which made her audiences laugh even harder.”

Former fellow and colleague, Dr. Ron Staron remembers her as a great teacher, friend, and mentor.

In 2000, Dr. Feldman reflected in Radiology about the changes she had encountered throughout her career. In her article, “Musculoskeletal Radiology: Then and Now,” she noted that evaluating change “is a challenging topic, with practitioners...endeavoring to bridge an ever-widening gap between current technologic plenty and previous comparative paucity...Will the ever increasing number of newer modalities become indispensable? Will current demand for our special imaging capabilities continue? They will only insofar as we imbue those same images with insightful, informed, and clinically relevant interpretations that contribute to the enhancement of patient care and the quality of life.“

Historical photo of Dr. Frieda Feldman reading films

Dr. Feldman’s illustrious career took place during a lengthy period in which it was not easy to be a woman in radiology. She had the force of character to press on with her work and contributions to the field when professional support was hard to come by. Even in retirement, Dr. Feldman never slowed down in her desire to learn and teach.

She is survived by her beloved husband and fellow radiologist, Rubem Pochaczevsky, MD; loving son, Alan Summers-Powell; daughter, Erica; and many other loving family and friends.

We have sorely missed her during her retirement, mourn her passing, and celebrate her life.