For Trish Oberweis, the fact that Dr. John Felder successfully treated her melanoma was the main thing. But the way in which Dr. Felder and his office treated her along the way was just as important.
“Every person I met was extraordinary, and on a visit when I needed extra kindness, they made me feel very comfortable the whole time,” said Oberweis, a Criminal Justice professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. “It was a really outstanding group.”
At her regular dermatologist checkup in the fall of 2019, Oberweis’ physician found a mole that she wanted removed. She got a call a few days later that it was melanoma.
“She assured me that she would text the man to whom she was referring me and that his office would be in touch,” Oberweis said, referring to Dr. Felder, who is with Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in Suite 101 of Medical Office Building A on the Alton Memorial Hospital campus. “It’s scary to hear you have a kind of cancer that has been fatal to people. I know this isn’t a terrible form of cancer, so I wouldn’t want to over-dramatize, but I’ve never had a significant health issue, so I was scared.”
Oberweis heard from Dr. Felder’s office quickly, and said the scheduler “struck an ideal balance between getting me on the schedule as quickly as possible and still communicating that this is not such a scary situation. It was calming to get in quick, but not ‘drop-everything’ quick.”
When the day arrived just a week or so after the diagnosis, Oberweis arrived at the office and was told that Dr. Felder was in surgery and was running at least an hour late.
“But they were so nice,” she said. “They were very clear in respecting my time and I really appreciated her directness. When I got to a treatment room, the first nurse engaged with me about her child. She shared her personal details to connect and help me stay relaxed. Our kids turned out to be the same age, going to their first high school homecoming. Talking about that normal mom/nervousness thing was much better than talking about either surgery or cancer, and I appreciated her openness.”
When Dr. Felder came in, Oberweis said he gave no indication that he felt flustered by time or rushed at all.
“I had an actual list of questions, and he patiently answered each, even telling me that this was my time and he would answer them until there were none left. I was surprised, because even at my regular doctor appointments I usually don’t feel like all my questions have been answered. But in this case, he was very thorough in talking through every question. I felt valued and calmed by his demeanor.”
Oberweis and Dr. Felder even talked a little about what motivated him to get into plastic surgery, which found some parallels with Oberweis’ son.
“Like Dr. Felder, my son had an injury as a child, a concussion that didn’t heal right away, that has led him toward wanting to be a doctor,” she said. “Unbelievably, Dr. Felder offered to talk to him and answer any questions he has.”
Although this was by far the most serious medical appointment of her life to this point, Oberweis said she felt totally relaxed. The staff was now staying late because of the time delay from earlier in the day, but she sensed no anxiety from them.
“During the excision, Dr. Felder and the surgical nurse chatted with me, cracked a couple good jokes, and talked about marriage, job satisfaction, and Dr. Felder continued to answer my questions, which had to be the same questions he’d answered for hundreds of people before, although he never indicated that he was bored of them. He even gave me a book recommendation related to a shared interest we have in the Egyptian pyramids.”
Before she even knew it, the procedure was done. Dr. Felder had removed all the bad cells during the surgery.
“He let me look at the tissue he removed, which was gross, but I was curious,” she said. “And the thing has healed very nicely.”
“We have a special interest in the treatment of skin cancer, and see hundreds of patients per year for that,” Dr. Felder said. “Our philosophy is simple – treat everyone as you would want to be treated. That includes how my staff approaches patients, as well as how we administer treatment."
Oberweis lives in Edwardsville with her husband, Matt Petrocelli, also a Criminal Justice professor at SIUE, and their sons Nick and Joe. But driving to Alton for any follow-ups with Dr. Felder would not be an issue.
“I would recommend Dr. Felder to anyone who needs help with something like I had,” she said. “He does wonderful work, and he and his office staff just make you feel so safe and comfortable.”
“My biggest blessing is my office staff,” Dr. Felder said. “I am so fortunate to end up with a staff who are all as hard-working and caring as I am, and are willing to go the extra mile for patients. We aren’t fancy, but we are kind, caring, and experienced, which I think is what matters in the end to most people.”
For more information, call Dr. Felder’s office at 618-433-6006.
Pictured above: Trish Oberweis and her husband, Matt Petrocelli, in their Edwardsville home.