Alumnus Spotlight: Loren Isakson, Allergist, Immunologist, Pediatrician, Beats the Drums on the Side
By Keith Morelli
TAMPA (August 13, 2021) -- Calling Loren Isakson a Renaissance man is almost an insult. He is an allergist, immunologist, pediatrician who helped establish a clinic on MacDill Air Force Base, treated patients for free in St. Petersburg, coached lacrosse to 9-year-old kids, takes acoustic guitar lessons, does the occasional pencil sketch and plays drums for a classic rock ‘n’ roll band.
And he isn’t done yet. He has his own medical practice, North Star Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in St. Petersburg, that is transitioning toward a telemedicine model.
Along the way, he earned a master’s degree focusing on entrepreneurship in applied technologies from the USF Center for Entrepreneurship at the Muma College of Business.
“I first started the entrepreneurship program to keep me intellectually stimulated,” he said. “I also thought that I would enjoy doing consulting at some point down the road. Doctors did not get much, or any, business education when I went to school.
“I considered the MBA first but decided on entrepreneurship after a chance phone call with Dr. [Michael] Fountain (the former director of the center),” Isakson said. “He explained to me about the highly diverse backgrounds of the students, in terms of academic disciplines, age, nationality, aspirations, etc. I have always picked multidisciplinary subjects to study as it's important to be able to think across many domains to solve problems.”
Isakson, a board certified physician who has practiced for 18 years, always had a startup mindset, so he thought the entrepreneurship classes would provide a solid foundation for the future, should he want to engage in consulting or even add another venture at some point.
“The classes were great, and the people helped create a network, which became greater than the sum of its parts,” he said. “That's something that was missing from prior educational experiences.”
His time helps him establish and maintain his own practice. He knows the fundamentals of setting up a clinic. In 2012-13, he was instrumental in starting an immunology clinic on MacDill Air Force Base, a clinic that still treats military personnel. Now, Isakson is in a “ramp-up phase” of his own allergy and immunology clinic.
“There is a lot of logistical work and planning that is common to both clinics on the medical and operational sides,” he said. “The business models are entirely different though. Additionally, the clinic at MacDill was a typical in person, office-based allergy and immunology clinic. I do have an office space in my current clinic, but I am also focusing on telemedicine almost exclusively during the pandemic and will expand my physical clinic's operations a little down the road.
“I also recently joined a clinical trials network that’s expanding its physical footprint as well to the digital realm through decentralized studies done in part or completely via telemedicine, he said. “The pandemic has helped accelerate these adaptations.””
Along the way in his career, Isakson volunteered as an allergist/immunologist at the Pinellas County Health Department/Saint Petersburg Free Clinic.
There wasn’t always a need for an allergist at the time, but I made myself available when called,” he said. “I think people should look out for each other in whatever capacity they can. We are stronger together.”
The clinic treated many folks for free, with many patients experiencing abrupt changes in their lives without insurance.
“That could be anyone on any given day, no matter how good their situation is,” Isakson said. “It was a chance to apply my skills to those in need. It also made me a better doctor as we had limited resources. I had to improvise at times to find ways of getting things for free or at a discount for the patients.”
Giving back is part of Isakson’s DNA. He played lacrosse through college and is passionate about the sport. So, it stood to reason he would take up coaching children in the finer points of the game.
“I welcomed the opportunity to grow lacrosse in Florida,” he said. “I remembered the positive impacts that my coaches had on me in terms of discipline, work ethic, respect and teamwork. I recommend that anyone who wants to learn about leadership try coaching youth sports. It's challenging to keep 8- and 9-year-old kids on task. It takes a lot of patience to field all their questions and hopefully help spark an interest in the sport in a non-pressured and experience-based manner.
“It taught both the kids and me resiliency in the face of loss and a desire to do better the next time,” he said. “Those qualities carry over and are needed throughout life. I was happy to be a role model for the next generation of kids just as my coaches did for me when I was younger.”
Teaching/coaching is one thing, learning is another. Isakson learned how to play the drums at an early age.
“I first tried drums when I was 5 or 6. I tried lessons but was not quite ready. I switched to classical violin and that was too strict and stifling for me. I went back to drums around 7 and my teacher said, ‘Bang away as much as you want,’ and I learned by exploring and experience. I stuck with it for 38 years now.”
The Simian Theory is not a scientific hypothesis on the evolution of humans. It’s the rock ‘n’ roll band in which Isakson handles the back beat.
“We play lots of songs from the ‘60's and ‘70's,” he said. “We play songs by the Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, Delaney & Bonnie, Velvet Underground, The Alan Parsons Project, The Band, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Santana, The Grateful Dead, Cream and Pink Floyd.”
The band has played several shows for charity to raise money for causes like the American Heart Association, Hospice and Gulf Coast Legal Services.
Is there any down time in his life?
“I keep busy being a husband to a wife who currently is enrolled in the USF MBA program, a parent to two kids, taking acoustic guitar lessons, doing an occasional pencil drawing project and trying to keep up with lacrosse to some degree during the pandemic,” he said. “I'm always looking for a good place to go alpine skiing when health and safety conditions allow.”
So the answer to the down-time question is no.