Courage, Grit & Determination
by Elizabeth Skenes Millen
Photography courtesty of Dr. Jami Feltner
Dr. Jami Feltner sure has a story. She is a living example of George Eliot’s theory, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” She is proof that if you work hard, you can achieve your dreams.
Caring for people is innate to Jami. Growing up in Cincinnati, she started college to be a nurse, with dreams of being a doctor always in the back of her mind. When her father fell ill, she diverted her path and helped out in the family business—a mortgage firm. While her father got better, her grandfather passed away. She remembers how the funeral director came to her family’s home, how he brought the family together, how he eased and helped them. Little did this fellow know, not only was he excelling at his job, he was inspiring Jami to make some changes in her life.
She did it. Jami actually went back to college to Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree and graduated Cum Laude. This was a field she enjoyed, especially helping families through their toughest times. After years of experience, conducting numerous funerals and consoling thousands of families and friends, Jami had a calling. She stared death in the face everyday, and saw many who died who could still be alive if only they had been more active in preventive medical care. Jami decided she was finally going to pursue her dream of being a doctor and help people live longer and healthier lives. At age 38, she started a long, arduous journey to become Dr. Jami Feltner.
The naysayers came out of the woodwork. She heard it all. “You’re too old.” “You lost your opportunity.” “You’ll never make it.” Plus, it’s not easy financially to drop out of the working world at that age and fund medical school. But Dr. Feltner believes, “You are never too old to go after your dreams.” This journey took courage, grit and determination. She had to take undergraduate classes in the sciences before she could even apply to medical school. Once accepted, she had to work extra hard because she was “old school.” She didn’t show up to class with an electronic tablet to take notes or access the Internet at the drop of a dime, rather she was on the spiral notebook plan. She was out of the country at St. James School of Medicine in the Netherland Antilles, away from her family, her husband, her pet and she did miserable on her first test, in spite of studying hard.
Though thoughts of quitting momentarily haunted her, she pushed harder. Determined, she pushed all the way to Valedictorian of the class with a 4.0 GPA. Landing a residency at Memorial Health in Savannah, Dr. Feltner found her way to the Lowcountry and underwent three years of specialty training in Internal Medicine. While there, she was honored with the 2013-2014 Internal Medicine Professionalism Award and the 2014-2015 Excellence in Ambulatory (Outpatient) Medicine Award.
With residency complete, Dr. Feltner opened an Internal Medicine practice under the Hilton Head Hospital umbrella last October. I have never talked to a doctor so excited to connect with and treat patients for their absolute best health. It was refreshing; her passion was exciting! She believes optimal health care comes from a partnership between the patient and the doctor. Her goal is to educate, advise and support her patients to a healthier happier life. Her aim is to provide the quality, individualized care, her patients deserve. Dr. Feltner’s daily goal is to build healthier lives free of illness and disease.
“It’s a bad day when you bury someone who died of colon cancer, who never had a colonoscopy. It’s hard to explain that to a family,” Dr. Feltner said. “This is what pushed me to become a physician and to focus on preventative medicine. Prevention and early detection are the most potent weapons in preventing illness and saving lives and that’s what I’m here to do.”
My family includes: my wonderful husband Jeff and our Newfoundland Jackson Browne
Best moment of medical school? Being named valedictorian. It made me feel all my hard work paid off. It showed no matter what your goal is, or how many obstacles are in your way, if you work hard you can accomplish your dreams
I’m hopelessly addicted to...coffee. It started when I was in medical school trying to stay awake during those long hours of studying.
Favorite book: The Bible— it’s the only book that provides daily encouragement, inspiration and comfort.
Favorite place: Exactly where we live here on Hilton Head and why I decided to build my practice here. Whether I am looking for a fun day at the beach or when I have a bad day at work with a sick patient, I enjoy coming to the beach. The beach gives me a sense of peace and comfort. It always puts a smile on my face.