Mark Neil Feinglos, MD, CM, passed away unexpectedly on March 14, 2020. He died in the home he loved in Durham, where he had lived for over 40 years.
Mark Feinglos was born on February 23rd, 1948, in Syracuse, New York, the only child of Bertha and Clarence Feinglos. When Mark decided to attend medical school at McGill University in Montreal, his mother proudly began referring to him as “My son, the doctor,” and she would only ask for him that way on the phone ever again: “Is my son, the doctor there?”
At McGill, Mark met his first wife and ultimately the mother of his two children, Sue Goldman Feinglos. Mark and Sue moved to Durham in 1972 when Mark began his residency at Duke University Medical Center. He never left Durham or Duke after that – something highly atypical for a physician. He rose to become Chief of Duke’s Division of Endocrinology for more than a decade, carefully balancing immense responsibility to the hospital and devotion to his family.
Mark was an incredibly committed husband and father, taking on the role of two parents to his young children when his wife Sue was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1994. Sue had become the highly regarded Director of the Duke Medical Center Library after a long career there. She fought the effects of cancer valiantly for eight years, but she could not have done so without her husband’s love, support, and coordination of her care across years of tests and bad news—which he always met with dedication and hope. From Sue’s diagnosis to her passing in 2002, Mark was there for her. In his eulogy for his wife, Mark stood with his children at his side and said that instead of ever suggesting that their mother had lost her battle with cancer, to remember instead that she “retired undefeated.”
Sue wasn’t the only one with an indefatigable spirit. Mark also persisted through these incredibly challenging times, and he was there for his children every step of the way. He never missed a parent-teacher conference, a school play, or a competition. The family ate dinner together around the kitchen table every night, with Mark’s delicious cooking sustaining everyone with love and support. Mark was an amazing father, always generous with his time and a word of advice, always stepping out of meetings to take a call from either of his children, and always bursting with pride to share his children’s accomplishments with anyone who would listen. Daniel and Rebecca are grateful for every piece of wisdom and encouragement they got from their dad, and never doubted his love for a second. When Mark’s daughter, Rebecca, married Sean Planchard in 2015, Mark was honored to have another son to love. Mark was so proud of each of his children. He was there any time they needed him, and he said many times over the years that having children was the best decision he ever made. His children will all hold their father in their hearts forever.
Mark liked to say that he was very lucky to fall in love twice when some people don’t even get lucky once, and that he, apparently, only married Susans. He met Susan Totten at Duke Hospital in 2007 when she was working there as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in endocrinology. Mark and Susan fell in love and were married on September 6, 2009 in Duke Gardens. Mark and Susan loved each other, and she brought out a joy in him that he had not felt in a long time. They enjoyed ten years of marriage together, full of gourmet eating, celebrating family graduations and weddings all over the country, watching eclectic movies, and enjoying Duke football and basketball games. Susan is grateful for the years she had with Mark, the love of her life, and only wishes they could have had more time together.
With Mark’s passing, Duke Athletics has lost one of its biggest fans. Mark was a dedicated Iron Duke for many decades, attending nearly every home football and men’s basketball game over the years. In fact, the rule in the Feinglos household for his children was that if anyone wanted to attend any basketball game, they had to go to the football games, too. He was a dedicated fan, regularly texting with his daughter, Rebecca, his son-in-law, Sean, and his brother-in-law, Jeff Vance, peppering them with news articles, and his own detailed analysis.
The Duke and Durham community will remember Mark as an outstanding physician, researcher, and professor of medicine focused especially on Type 2 diabetes. His patients loved him, many of them seeking his treatment for decades, and he led a weekly clinic supporting diabetic patients without insurance. Mark was not yet ready to retire, and was diligent in his robust career, pursuing many dozens of grants and studies, writing publications and articles, and giving talks—all far too many to recount here. In 2008, Mark and Susan published an editorial together on diabetes research in the Archives of Internal Medicine. It is safe to say that Mark’s contributions to the field of endocrinology have enabled people with diabetes to live better lives all over the world.
But Mark would often say that his research in the medical field would not be remembered 50 years from now – the science evolves so quickly that today’s discoveries will be supplanted by tomorrow’s innovations. Instead, Mark said he would be remembered for his contributions to the field of mineralogy. Ever a man of many interests, Mark had one, central passion: mineral collecting. In fact, most people in the mineral community were not familiar with Mark’s work in medicine, and probably assumed the “Dr.” in his title was a doctorate in geology. This created two absolutely brilliant sides of Mark: the deeply intellectual and rigorous physician and the deeply intellectual and rigorous mineral collector.
Mark began collecting minerals at the age of five when his aunt bought him a box set of minerals as a gift. This quickly became his favorite toy, and his mother supported his budding passion, patiently taking him to mineral stores and shows in nearby cities throughout his early years. Mark’s passion for mineralogy grew over the course of his life, building one of the most scientifically important private mineral collections in the world. His undergraduate degree, also from McGill, was in geology. Over the years, Mark identified many new minerals, as he was often sent specimens that could not be classified. Working within Duke’s mineral collection, Mark discovered something that looked like a new mineral type, and worked to name the new mineral Dukeite in honor of the University and the Duke family. It was the first US university to have a mineral named for it. In 1997, Mark was honored to have a mineral named after him, Feinglosite, after he was the first to notice the unfamiliar specimen in the Natural History Museum of London. Mark spent his life continuing the historic tradition of mineralogy, discovering for the sake of discovery, and living out his passion for science. He was privileged to be part of a project that led to the world’s largest database of minerals that became useful even to NASA in its analysis of moon rocks. Mark won the William Pinch medal in 2003, its second recipient after its namesake, Mark’s best friend Bill Pinch. The Pinch medal is awarded every other year to recognize major and sustained contributions to the advancement of mineralogy, and Mark was humbled to receive the award.
Mark Feinglos lived a full life with people he loved and people who loved him. He was a true intellectual, kind-hearted, a collector, and was quick with a keen sense of humor. He will be missed every day.
Mark is survived by his wife, Susan Totten, his children Daniel Feinglos, Rebecca Feinglos Planchard, his son-in-law Sean Planchard, his sister-in-law Laverne Vance, his brother-in-law Jeff Vance, his nephew Stephen Vance, and his mothers-in-law Beryl Goldman and Lorine Totten. Mark was predeceased by his first wife and the mother of his children, Sue Goldman Feinglos, of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and his parents, Bertha Cohen Feinglos and Clarence Feinglos, of Syracuse, New York.
The family will hold a private funeral service with a memorial to be held in the future. Flowers can be sent to Hall-Wynne Funeral Services at 1113 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701. Donations can be made in honor of Dr. Mark Feinglos either to the American Diabetes Association at https://www.diabetes.org/, or to the Museum of Life and Science at https://www.lifeandscience.org/support or via mail to the museum, c/o Sarah Leach Smith, 433 W Murray Ave, Durham, NC 27704, with the donations going to expand supports for children’s geology education.