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Medicine binds three generations

Published Oct. 13, 2005

The first, the most, and the top are words that might be used to describe the Feaster family of physicians in St. Petersburg. Dr. Lynn Feaster Jr., the "middle man" in the family, recently retired after 37 years of practice. He followed in the footsteps of his uncle, Dr. Orion Otis Feaster, and led the way to medicine for two of his three sons.

From this vantage point, he has a good overview of medicine then and now.

Feaster, 66, set a precedent when he was born. In 1924, he was St. Petersburg's first baby born by Caesarean section. He was delivered by his uncle, who the rest of the family called "Uncle Doc."

Both mother and son thrived, and Feaster joined the annual Florida summer migration to Highlands, N.C., at age 9 months. He has been going back ever since.

It was "Uncle Doc" who inspired his nephew to pursue medicine.

O. O. Feaster, a third-generation Floridian from Micanopy, came to St. Petersburg in 1919. He practiced general medicine and became the area's first full-time radiologist.

Lynn Feaster Jr., whose parents were divorced when he was 13, spent a lot of time with his cousins at his uncle's home on Ninth Avenue and Oak Street NE.

He recalled many young doctors who lived with the O. O. Feasters until they found homes of their own. Among them were doctors W. G. Post and S. B. Bieker.

O. O. Feaster could do almost anything, his nephew said. "He was a real leader's leader," he said.

Dr. Frederick Eberson agrees in his book, Early Medical History of Pinellas Peninsula. O. O. Feaster helped found the Pinellas County Medical Society, was its president and also was first vice president of the Radiological Society of North America.

The book said one of Feaster's most valuable contributions to medicine and society was inviting black doctors to a medical society session in 1946.

O. O. Feaster's second wife, Dr. Annette Mebane Feaster, also was a trendsetter. From Hickory Flat, Miss., attended Columbia Medical School and graduated in 1924. She, too, became a radiologist and was the sole radiological practitioner in St. Petersburg during World War II, when her husband and others were in the service.

She also was the first female president of the Pinellas County Medical Society.

The human side to "Uncle Doc" Feaster, his care for people, was the trait his nephew admired most.

"He had such a love of people. He was always available to any and everybody," Feaster said. "Whenever there was an accident, he was off to the hospital at any hour because he was the only one who could read the X-rays."

O. O. Feaster also practiced radiation therapy. "His motto was, "If you get well, pay me,' " Feaster said. "He didn't make a lot of money, because he did not attempt to collect bills."

Feaster had the same feelings about his practice.

"I always treated people the way I would want to be treated. I never really stopped making house calls," he said.

Before he retired, he made sure another doctor would make house calls to a 100-year-old patient.

Feaster, like his aunt and uncle, was a trendsetter. He worked with radio isotopes in nuclear medicine with his cousin, Jack, a biochemist at the University of Florida. Vanderbilt University Medical School created a fellowship in radioisotpes to honor Feaster and his work.

Also, the Atomic Energy Commission gave him the first license to dispense radio isotopes from a private office. He practiced general and nuclear medicine.

As the years progressed, Feaster had the rare privilege of consulting about patients with his son, Dr. Lynn Feaster III, who opened a practice in internal medicine and pulmonology in St. Petersburg in 1987.

Dr. Lynn Feaster III attended the University of Florida Medical School and received his post-medical school training in the Army at Walter Reed Medical Center. He served three years in Germany, where he was the senior pulmonary care physician in Europe.

He also enjoyed the medical ties between father and son.

"To be able to do the same thing as your dad is really special," the younger Feaster said. It was a unique experience to be able to consult with him over a patient. I miss him."

Feaster jokes about his recent retirement.

"I have nothing to do, and I don't start doing it until noon," he said, relaxing in his Allendale home with his wife, Evelyn, beside him.

He works with plants in his potting house, will pick up on his tennis, and is contemplating brushing up on the clarinet he played in high school. He said he might join the Second Time Arounders, a local band of former performers.

The couple has two other sons, David, a St. Petersburg banker and Fred, a Texas ophthalmologist.

Feaster said he retired while he still enjoyed his patients and good health. "I had hoped to taper practice, but with government intervention and limitations, unfortunately, that was not possible," he said.

"The primary care physicians, the general practitioners especially, are the ones who are put on the spot. If a patient has a temperature of 102, not 101.8, and if his white count is at a certain level and no lower _ it's a regular cookbook formula _ then you can put him in the hospital. But if he doesn't meet that criteria, then the peer review committee questions you," if you put him in the hospital, he said.

"If you have a patient who comes into the hospital on a Friday night, say, and he needs to go into a nursing home, he can't get in until Monday. Medicare does not allow for hospitalization. What do you do?" he asked. "Or a patient who has chest pain? You put him in the hospital and six months later Medicare says he did not need to be there.

"The government is undermining doctors' best judgment in managing their patients," he said.

"It just wasn't as enjoyable anymore."

"But I miss my patients," he said.