The new normal: Beardless Dr. Feldt leaves his patients and family ‘in shock’
The cold, sharp, steel edge of a razor blade had not touched Dr. Max Feldt’s chin for about 20 years … then COVID-19 imposed a new normal for the Children’s Mercy Endocrinologist and his patients, family and friends.
The hospital’s mandate for staff to have Centers for Disease Control (CDC)-compliant facial hair required Dr. Feldt to shave his beloved beard.
“I am in a position that I may be required to wear an N95 mask and have it fit properly, so I have to have CDC-approved facial hair,” Dr. Feldt said.
For Dr. Feldt, losing his beard was not merely a cosmetic change.
Dr. Max Feldt, before and after shaving his beard to be in line with CDC facial hair guidelines. The change in appearance was as surprising to him as his patients, family and friends. After 20 years of not shaving, "My own mother didn't recognize me!"
“It’s part of my identity,” he said. “My patients love it when I dye it different colors. It’s a way for me to connect to my patients and make them feel more comfortable during their visits.”
The fun has included Dr. Feldt dying his beard green and decorating it with ornaments for the department holiday party and dying it red in support of the Kansas City Chiefs and their Super Bowl win.
But rules are rules, so Dr. Feldt decided to make the best of the situation.
“If you Google search for CDC facial hair, you can see a graphic that has all the approved styles and their names. It’s a good laugh on all the names (e.g., Ducktail; Walrus; Zorro; Villain; Toothbrush). I did a facial-hair survey in my department as a morale-boosting activity. I let them decide which of the CDC-approved facial hair I should do. ‘Soul patch’ was the winner.”
Reactions have been as amusing as the facial hair-style names.
“I hadn’t shaved my chin for about 20 years. When I shaved, my wife, kids and own mother didn’t recognize me. My patients and families are still in shock and miss the beard.”
Patients razzed the doc by saying things like:
“Who is this strange doctor?”
“Will the REAL Dr. Feldt please come in?”
“One patient dropped the phone they were using for a telehealth visit, I’m assuming out of shock,” Dr. Feldt said.
But there also have been compliments.
“I get lots of positive comments on how I look younger.”
Overall, Dr. Feldt is philosophical about the change.
“I think the whole world has had a transition of some sort, some small, some more significant,” he said. “I just feel that I’ve done my small part in accepting the ‘new normal’ with a lack of facial hair.”
However, Dr. Feldt emphasized that this new normal will be temporary, and revenge will be sweet.
“I’m getting used to the cleaner look, but do not enjoy shaving,” he said. “I am very much looking forward to getting back to a new normal with facial hair in the future. I plan on growing my beard out once I can, and longer than before!”