Dr. Neil Stollman: Fecal Transplant Pioneer

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Bio:

Neil Stollman MD is a Board Certified gastroenterologist practicing in Oakland, CA, with a Faculty appointment at UCSF. After training in NYC and Miami, he’s quite happily settled down in the bay area, and is currently the elected Governor for the American College of Gastroenterology for Northern California. His research interests in the past have included H pylori infection, GI bleeding, endoscopic treatments for reflux and Barrett’s esophagus. Most recently, his career has taken more of a deep dive into Diverticular Disease of the colon and C difficile. One of the early adopters of “fecal transplants” (Wired.com referred to him as “…the Tupac of FMT….he didn’t invent it but he brought it to the West Coast”), this has become his current area of expertise, research and teaching.  The East Bay Express featured him on its cover with “The Future of Feces” emblazoned on his chest in a Superman font, much to the tremendous embarrassment of his teenage children.

What do I do best?

I’m a fairly natural, easy and effective communicator, which serves me well both as a physician and as a speaker / professor.  Much of medical care is, frankly, educational and while I often do mechanical things with my hands (and my scopes), I think my strongest talent is simply speaking with (and to) people!  I’m often told that I should do stand up, which I’m sure I’d bomb at, but I think that reflects my enthusiastic teaching style.

What makes me the best version of myself?

It sounds self-serving, but I’d have to say empathy.  Without caring for patients, without feeling that pull to help, I don’t think I’d be a very good doctor.

What are my aspirations?

Personally, I hope to continue to enjoy as many joyful days as I can, roaming around and exploring this spinning globe.  Professionally, I’d like to continue to educate students, physicians, and patients as best as I can.

My Biggest Success?

I’ll keep my personal successes (and failures!), well, personal! But professionally, helping to advance our current understanding of the human colonic microbiome gives me great pride.  When I first started doing fecal transplants a decade ago, people honestly thought that it was crazy……taking feces from a well person and putting it in a sick person? In what world does that make sense? Turns out, in this world, and fast forward ten years and the biome is our new frontier, widely accepted as integral to our health and illness and just beginning to be understood

My Most Challenging Moment?

It’s not A single moment, but currently, we’re dealing with a bit of ‘microbiome-mania’ and I’m struggling to keep expectations grounded. I get daily calls and emails from patients looking for transplants for pretty much any illness that they don’t have a good solution for, and while it’s hard to say no to sick and needy people, we need to do this right, with caution and sound science. Further the industry is overly hyping this new world and that’s not good for anyone.

My Motto?

Well, when I’m on call (and always in jeopardy of getting called in to the hospital at any time), my mantra is ‘No appointments, no disappointments’

My Favorite People/Role Models?

My most important medical mentors (Arvey Rogers, Larry Brandt, Christina Surawicz) have all been thinkers, not doers.  In medicine it’s too easy to become algorithmic (especially these days with computerized care) and simply plan what test or procedure to do next. My role models are all, by nature, thoughtful (and skeptical) and have taught me to try and understand, not to simply ‘do’

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

I’m a city mouse, born / raised / trained in NYC, and now living an urban apartment life in Oakland CA, but when I can escape, which I’m trying to do more of, I seem to find myself getting as remote as I can.  I backpack quite a bit now, always remote and not in campgrounds, and tend to travel to very remote wilderness lodges. I think my daily life is so full of stimuli, that when I can, the only stimulus I really want to experience is nature.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

Well, I’ve recently gotten a cast iron skillet that is proving itself very versatile!  And while it seems mundane, I’m on my feet much of the time and a comfortable pair of shoes is so critical (currently, liking my AllBirds quite a bit….).  And oh, I can’t forget the Platypus gravity water filtration system, it has truly transformed my backpacking experience by radically facilitating water purification, which was previously just so painful! Less pumping, more being!

My Current Passions?

I’ve never been a huge sports nut, but the Golden State Warriors are a true love (yes, I said love!). They play a uniquely team-oriented game (all time records for assists, ie passing to a teammate who scores….isn’t that the most important stat?) and they genuinely seem to play with sincere joy.   Yes, I’ve surrendered to them, for better or worse….