Unsure initially about his career path as a young man, David Alcindor, MD, first thought a career in architecture might give him the outlet for helping people that he was searching for.
“A long time ago, I wrote an essay about what I wanted to do with my life,” Dr. Alcindor said. “I was aspiring to do either architecture, medicine or law — I called them the ‘Humanitarian Trinity.’ I just wanted to help people.”
Alcindor — now a member of the executive leadership team at South Lincoln Hospital District — went as far as earning his BA in architecture from the University of Kansas-Lawrence, and began researching ways to use his degree to help build homes in third-world countries. A native of Paris, France, Alcindor grew up in a neighborhood not typically found on tourist maps, and he was eager to help those raised in a similar situation. It was during this work that he crossed paths with a team of medical volunteers, and discovered medicine had a far greater impact on individuals in need.
“I was born in Paris, France, in the 19th District,” Alcindor said. “It’s a district tourists don’t come to, at least at the time when I was there. It was known for being very rough. It was a very, very poor district — none of my family finished high school, and most of my family are blue collar. When I came to the U.S., I got a degree in architecture, but ended up joining an international team of physicians, working in Haiti. I didn’t know anything about medicine — my research consisted of building housing for the poor. What I found was, third-world countries already had a pretty strong architectural tradition — what they needed was engineers and doctors.I finished my degree in architectural studies, and began pre-med at the University of Kansas, eventually going to medical school.”
After graduating medical school, Dr. Alcindor decided he wanted to practice medicine internationally, and eventually joined the U.S. Air Force, serving on the front lines.
“I was going to do with medicine what I had hoped to do with architecture — tend to the needs of a poor population,” Alcindor said. “I had an international scale in mind, and I contacted the United Nations — they said I had to work for the government for a certain number of years. I contacted Doctors Without Borders, and they told me the same thing, so when I finished medical school, I joined the U.S. Air Force. I was deployed in Kuwait, taking care of different levels of active duty military, from the different branches of the U.S. military. At that point, I realized that international aid was not really what I wanted. I was honorably discharged as a major, and set my sights on rural America, making it a full-time career.”
Upon returning to civilian life, Alcindor began a 20-plus-year career as a traveling ED (Emergency Medicine) physician, with a focus on land laborers in remote, rural areas. In that time, he traveled from Maine to Washington state — and everywhere in between — eventually landing in Lincoln County in February.
“It was my work as a traveling physician that brought me to Kemmerer,” Alcindor explained. “The most gratifying part to me as a family physician — I’ve done everything, from delivering babies all the way to nursing home calls. Last December, I was still in Colorado, doing house calls. It’s the flexibility of approaching people, based on their needs. I like the small scale of the hospitals, because you get to know people, you get to know their families — you have a better appreciation of who they are, where they come from. Medicine itself is the medium for me to do the things I like to do with people; I would have done the same thing with architecture.”
“Only 3% of the physician population do what I did, which is being ready at a moment’s notice or a phone call, to fly across America,” Alcindor added. “It’s a passion, it’s a calling. It’s a devotional type of work.”
After a few months of working at South Lincoln, Alcindor decided to stay on in a permanent position in August, bringing an end to his two-decade traveling adventure.
“It feels to me almost like a change in careers — giving up the traveling, and staying in one place,” he said. “I’ve thrown the anchor, so to speak.”
Though they now call Kemmerer home, Alcindor and his wife Katrina have struggled to shake their nomadic lifestyle, at least when it comes to their living space.
“My wife Katrina and I have been together for seven years, and married for three,” Alcindor said. “She’s from a small town in Colorado. She’s always been very flexible with my schedule, and for the past four years, we’ve been living in an RV. We have very minimal needs for space. But I am buying a house here in town, so we’re taking the wheels off, so to speak. It’s a small house, but it’s bigger than our RV, and that’s all the space I need.”
The Alcindors have been enjoying learning all they can about their new community.
“Kemmerer has a very interesting history — I’ve usually worked in communities populated with ranchers, farmers and cowboys, but this is my first coal-mining community,” he said. “I didn’t know that JC Penney originated here. I take walks with my wife every night, and we look around at the buildings. It’s an isolated but very healthy small community.”
Asked what he’s enjoyed the most about his time in Kemmerer so far, Alcindor said the answer is simple.
“What I’ve enjoyed the most is basically doing what I’m doing — making myself useful, while I’m still healthy and active,” Alcindor said. “My goal here is to help SLHD grow their primary and specialty care services in ways that are sustainable for the community of Kemmerer.”