Sharing the pivotal moments in his patients' lives has been one of the most satisfying aspects of practicing medicine for David Kersbergen, D.O.
"The more emotional experiences in medicine have always seemed to be the most rewarding, whether it's the privilege of sharing in the joy of birth, or in helping a family deal with news of a terminal diagnosis," says Kersbergen.
Kersbergen recently joined FirstHealth Hospice and Palliative Care as a field provider, where he will visit patients in their homes, skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. He looks forward to the chance to serve patients and families at a difficult time in their lives.
"I think the most important thing is to be able to listen to the patient and family members’ concerns and demonstrate sincere empathy," says Kersbergen. "It's important to hear them and understand them, whether they're asking a question or just venting. I think it is important to acknowledge their fears and validate their feelings."
Kersbergen was first drawn to hospice care by an experience he had as a teacher in a Family Medicine residency program in Iowa in 2014. "We had a patient in the hospital who was actively dying," Kersbergen says. "I was so impressed and moved by the exceptional nursing care he received and the team approach to his care that I never forgot it."
A graduate of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Michigan State University, Kersbergen's career includes extensive experience as a family medicine and military physician. It's a background that helps him connect with -- and have empathy for -- a wide range of patients, he says.
"I believe my varied experiences in family medicine, from prenatal and obstetrics care, to pediatrics, inpatient medicine and geriatrics, as well as my military experiences, will help me relate to patients of nearly any background," Kersbergen says. "I can answer most questions someone might have. I don’t have all the answers but being honest about that and being humble – and human – I believe gains trust."
He says his experiences have also taught him that life is sometimes unfair, but he encourages his patients to find happiness in each day. He looks forward to bringing that philosophy to his work with hospice and palliative care patients.
"Life is short and unpredictable and beautiful. I believe we should try to make the most of every day and appreciate what we have. Life isn’t fair, but that's why it's important to focus on what we have and experience as much joy as possible."
Kersbergen, who joins FirstHealth Hospice and Palliative Care after working as a physician at Pinehurst Medical Clinic since 2017, spent 18 years on active duty in the U.S. Army as a physician. His military assignments included service as a battalion surgeon in Iraq in 2007-2008 and as a brigade surgeon at Camp Carroll in Korea during 2011-2012. He received the Combat Medic Badge in 2008 for his care of an injured soldier in Iraq.
Kersbergen completed his residency in family medicine at Dewitt Army Community Hospital at Ft. Belvoir, Va., in 2006. He served as teaching faculty at the family medicine residency program at Fort Hood, Texas, from 2012-2014.
After retiring from the Army in 2014, he served as assistant program director at the family medicine residency at Mercy Medical Center – North Iowa and was recognized as a clinical assistant professor of family medicine by The University of Iowa Carver Medicine College.
In his spare time, Kersbergen enjoys running half marathons and similar distances, as well as the occasional round of golf. He has a goal to complete a half marathon in every state – 13 down, just 37 to go.
For more information about FirstHealth Hospice and Palliative Care, call (910) 715-6000.