Link: University of Iowa

Information About

Alumni Interview

Donald Diebel, M.D, Ph.D.


(74MD, 77R-Ob/Gyn)

What is your hometown?

I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. I have now lived in Orlando, Florida for 31 years.

What is your official title?

I am the President of OB & GYN Specialists which is an 11 physician, single specialty group.

How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

I don’t believe there was a specific time when I became interested in medicine. I just always knew I wanted to become a physician, even at a very early age. Interestingly, I am a third generation physician and I remember my father and grandfather also describing how they had this knowledge since childhood, as did my late son who was a fourth generation.

Please highlight your major career achievements, awards, discoveries, etc.

Before coming to The University of Iowa, I had earned my Ph.D. at Indiana University. After completing medical school and a residency in Ob/Gyn at Iowa, I moved to Orlando. I was the Director of Medical Education of Obstetrics and Gynecology and with Dr. Arnold Lazar (69BSCHE, 73MD, 77R-Ob/Gyn) started and ran the high risk Obstetrics unit at Orlando Regional Medical Center for nine years. I was the Chairman of the Ob/Gyn Department and then was Chief of the Medical Staff for the hospital system which was composed of six hospitals.

Is there a teacher, mentor or UI Carver College of Medicine faculty member who has helped shape your education?

Outstanding teachers were (and I’m sure still are) abundant at Iowa. However, two who stood out for me were Dr. William Keettel who was the Obstetrics Department Chairman for 18 years, and Dr. Frank Zlatnick, who recently retired from the department. Dr. Keettel was a man who possessed incredible knowledge and was as a true role model exemplifying everything a physician should be. I felt very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work under a man of his warmth, grace and medical acumen. Dr. Zlatnick, while from a later generation, also exemplified skills of a brilliant clinician combined with a joy of taking care of patients and a love of teaching.

How or why did you choose the University of Iowa for your education and medical training?

I came to the University of Iowa because my major professor at Indiana had earned his Ph.D. at Iowa under Dr. Nick Halmi in the Anatomy Department and felt it was a place worth looking at. While I had originally thought seriously of doing medical research, after being exposed to patient care, I realized that this was my love.

Please describe your professional interests and outside interests.

My professional interests now consist of the private practice of Obstetrics and Gynecology and assisting in the training of residents at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies (part of Orlando Regional). My outside interests include tennis, reading and doing anything athletic with my seven grandsons.

Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?

My philosophy of medicine is that physicians need to recognize, and never forget, that patients’ needs always supersede ours. We have many opportunities to better their lives in so many ways, both large and small. We are here for them, not the other way around.

If you could change one thing about the practice or business of medicine, what would it be?

If I could change one thing in medicine, I would totally revamp the professional liability system. This system as it exists is totally broken. Basically the system needs to accomplish only a few basics. First, it needs to protect the patient. Second, if there has been harm done to a patient through carelessness or negligence, it needs to educate the health care provider or alter the system that allowed it to happen to prevent its recurrence, and third, the system needs to fairly compensate the patient for the harm. The amount of money that is wasted through litigation and defensive medicine is astronomical and doesn’t adequately satisfy any of the three basic goals set out above.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in medicine since you were a student?

The biggest change I have seen in medicine is the amount of specialization and technology that have developed, and the fact that medicine has become much more of a business than it was in the past. The cost of health care is huge and the thought has been that if we treat medicine as a business proposition, it will provide better care to more people for less money. This remains to be seen.

What one piece of advice would you give to today's medical students?

Advice I give to medical students is that as you progress in your education and attempt to assimilate a seemingly impossible amount of knowledge and know-how, don’t forget why you went into medicine in the first place. Don’t let the whole patient get lost because now you can do the most recently developed whiz-bang procedure or quote statistics from an obscure journal. The patient wants you as their ombudsman, confidant, advisor and comforter. Be humble. Recognize that you are part of the most honorable profession in the world and conduct yourself accordingly.


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