Meet your neighbor... Dr. David Reed
Published 12:00 am, Friday, December 8, 2017
NEW CANAAN — Dr. David Reed never considered becoming a surgeon, at least not until his junior year at Tufts University. Even then, it took a high school volunteer trip to Honduras in 1966 and a self-reflective journey following the route of Don Quixote throughout Spain his sophomore spring in college that made him ponder about what he really wanted to do for the rest of his life.
“I had to make up for all the time lost when I came back from Spain so I crammed my pre-med courses and then got my master’s degree in public health three months after graduation,” Reed, 66, said while sitting in his New Canaan home.
The traveling bug had bit him and it bit hard. Reed worked at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City after his graduation and prior to commencing medical school but a dinner with a friend and some questions about his future pushed him to travel again in early 1974. “I gave my three weeks notice and bought a ticket from a travel agency to go from New York City to New York City, roundtrip.”
What followed was a six month travesty across the western United States and countries including Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Iran, Israel, Laos, Cambodia and Turkey. (The last three were “anti-American because of the Vietnam War and the American-backed military government in Turkey” Reed recalls.) The journey eventually ended for him to attend medical school in Jefferson, Pennsylvania.
Born and raised in Fairfield, Reed moved to Stamford in 1985 and later to New Canaan in 1992 where he and his wife, Janet, had their first of three children. He is currently the Director of Health of New Canaan and medical director of care management at Stamford Health.
His personal studio is a treasure cove of innumerable memorabilia from his travels: an 1800s fishing rod made out of bamboo is pinned above a glass case that guards several film cameras, a collegiate hat and even a Russian matryoshka from his days in Siberia.
He’s never been one to turn down invitations to go abroad. Only a year into his New Canaan home, he was invited to go to the Philippines again in 1986 for AmeriCares, an emergency relief program with offices in El Salvador, Liberia, India and Tanzania. From 1986 to 2001, he actively contributed to the organization with emergency trips to Cuba, Brazil, India and even to Ground Zero on 9/11.
“I haven’t been an active surgeon since 1998 because of my hands but I’m really passionate about teaching and volunteering, it’s something I love doing,” Reed said.
While his travels may inspire romanticism, Reed’s work in refugee camps and war zones throughout the Balkans, Kuwait, Ethiopia and Haiti among others have also shown him a darker side of the human condition.
“Once in the Dominican Republic my oldest daughter accompanied me and we saw a baby wrapped up in sheets and plastic bags in the corner of the hallway. When my daughter asked me why it had been left there, I had to tell her later that due to lack of neonatal care stations, the baby had been left to die en las manos de Dios (in God’s hands).”
In the past seven years, Reed has traveled three times to Myanmar to volunteer and lecture. He had previously gone back in 1974 back when the country was still named Burma. “We have a great time every time we go, the surgeons will take us out and we participate in a lot of lectures which I really enjoy.”
Asked about what the near future holds, Reed looks at his glass case. “I missed out earlier this spring but looking ahead we might go to Peru (where he has never been). I used to be fluent in Spanish because I used it everyday as a surgeon so maybe going back to Latin America I’ll be able to pick it up again,” he said. With 66 years and counting, this doctor still has many, many miles left to go.