“I wanted to be a doctor since grade school,” he recalls.
For many, the childhood notion evolves; but not for Fineman — the Atlanta native and son of a chemist has been in private practices treating people with allergies for 35 years.
Fineman attended Atlanta public schools before graduating from Emory University’s School of Medicine. He completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati.
He says it was during his residency that an allergy professor took him “under his wing.”
“We would see lots of asthma cases in children in the fall in the winter — it would be all we saw in the hospital,” said Fineman. “I started thinking, what can we do about these kids coming in with asthma all the time?”
The question prompted Fineman to do a research project with his professor that would be published and presented at a national meeting.
“That was pretty unusual for a resident,” he said. “That stimulated my interest in allergy.”
Fineman completed his fellowship in allergy and immunology at Harvard University School of Medicine in Boston, Mass.
In July, 1978, Fineman hung out his shingle on Campbell Hill Road, behind Kennestone Hospital. In 1997, he merged his growing practice with Atlanta Allergy & Asthma — a multi-office practice founded in 1972.
medicine and business
In the early ’90s, Fineman decided to go back to school again to obtain his masters of business administration degree.
“That was a time when medicine was getting more complicated from a business angle,” he said.
Fineman was a part of a group of physicians whom were negotiating with an insurance carrier.
“It became clear to me that the carriers were talking a different language than we were talking. … We as physicians needed to be able to communicate with them.”
Fineman said doctors’ training to evaluate data, make decisions and give orders that are carried out is antithetical to the business world.
“In business school, you are taught to work in a group and that everything is always changing, so you have to be flexible,” he said.
Fineman says he thinks his business degree has better equipped him to handle industry-changing health care reform. “It’s a fact, and you have to be able to adapt to change; sometimes it’s hard for doctors to do that.”
Fineman divides his time between the practice’s east Cobb and Kennestone offices, seeing about 25 patients a day. The practice has 19 offices and 18 doctors, as well as nurse practitioners and administrative personnel.
Fineman is the past-president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
One of his Cobb-based partners, Dr. Louis Kalish describes him as “a caring and compassionate medical caregiver.”
“He has been intimately involved in the current changes taking place in the field of allergy and immunology,” Kalish said.
As the only nationally-certified pollen counting station in metro Atlanta, pollen is collected daily in a rooftop device on top of the Kennestone office. Atlanta meteorologists broadcast the numbers during the region’s infamous pollen seasons.
Fineman says three staff technicians rotate bringing the sample down each morning and count the pollen under a microscope.
“We need to find out what is in the air so we can correlate with the patient when they come in,” he said. “We do it as a service to us and share it as a public service.”
The practice also does clinical research on new medications. Past studies include pre-FDA approval research on commonly-used allergy medications such and Singulair and Xolair.
“It’s been very gratifying to see some of the medications we studied before they were approved. ... And now they are standard of care.”
When Fineman is not working, he is running half-marathons and water skiing. He will be running the July 4th Peachtree Road Race with his son. Fineman says he is not considering retirement anytime soon.
“I’m having too much fun. … It’s a very satisfying field.”