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University of Missouri

All About Patients

MU faculty physician to lead American College of Physicians in 2014–15.

David Fleming

David Fleming will soon lead the nation’s second-largest professional organization for physicians. Photo by Justin Kelley.

Whether David Fleming is practicing medicine in small-town Missouri, running MU’s Department of Internal Medicine or preparing to lead the nation’s second-largest professional organization of physicians, he always tries to remember why he went into medicine in the first place.

Fleming, BA ’70, MA ’72, MD ’76, is a native of Moberly, Mo., population 13,940, where he practiced general internal medicine and geriatrics for 20 years. Although those years were rewarding, he says, regulatory changes in health care produced ever-greater tensions between the business side and human side of medicine. In 2001, Fleming joined MU’s faculty full time, developing and leading MU’s Center for Health Ethics. The internist and bioethics researcher rose through the academic ranks to become chair of the Department of Internal Medicine where he shapes training curriculum for future physicians. In April 2014, Fleming will begin a year as president of the American College of Physicians, which provides professional development and advocacy for its 137,000 members and policy advice to legislators. The job is a bully pulpit on health care, which consumed 18 percent of the gross domestic product in 2011.

Even so, Fleming says, “I still see myself as an internist from north-central Missouri. My foundation will always be what I did 12 hours a day, seven days a week for 20 years in caring for patients. It’s all the same question: how to deal with the complexities, emotionality, stresses, joys and disappointments that go along with taking care of patients … one at a time.”