Ophthalmologist Has an Eye for Investing and Collecting

Bob Freedland, MD, has a very loyal following and not just because he has built a long and successful career as an ophthalmologist at the Mayo Clinic. Freedland is also an investment portfolio manager for Covestor, an asset management firm that hosts both professionals and non-professionals (like Freeland) on its site, enabling clients to replicate their trading strategies.

Some might call it a hobby, but Freedland takes it as seriously as his work as an eye surgeon. He understands that when the market declines it not only affects him but that someone who follows him might also lose money.

“I feel an immense responsibility when I’m taking care of people in the operating room,” Freedland says. “But with Covester, I have people who are sort of mirroring what I’m doing regarding investing. And there’s a tremendous responsibility to take care of that trust the same way. I know that sounds corny, but I don’t take it lightly.”

Starting young

Freedland began investing at the age of 13 when, on the advice of his soon-to-be brother-in-law, he took $300 of his savings and purchased five shares of Global Marine. He soon found himself captivated by the investment world and bought small holdings from diverse companies.

He continued to invest small amounts during high school, college and medical school, and he read as many financial investment magazines and books as he could find.

“Part of me has always been fascinated by investing,” Freedland says. “I kind of got hooked on it. It’s just a great puzzle or game. Nobody quite knows the rules. What’s the way to figure it out? It has become been a life-long pursuit or hobby.”

Freedland started a blog in 2003, Stock Picks Bob’s Advice, where he began sharing with readers his actual purchases and sales, as well as thoughts and rationale on hundreds of other companies. He has since been approached by Covestor to do the same with stocks in the health care field.

“I really feel that my understanding of health care gives me a 10-minute advantage over the next person,” he says. “Maybe I understand it a little better when I read about it.”

But Freedland is quick to point out that the research he does is not first hand. He doesn’t visit the companies; instead, he does research online with free information and Morningstar Reports.

Unusual hobby

Freedland may refer to his stock-picking work as a hobby, but the reality is he has an even more unique avocation as a collector of Pez candy dispensers. He estimates that his collection totals into the thousands.

“My kids say they’re going to turn me into Hoarders,” he laughs.

His affinity for Pez dispensers began in medical school. His brother collected Coca-Cola memorabilia, and Freedland sought to develop a collection of his own.

“I started seeing these Pez dispensers, and I thought, ‘This is charming stuff,’” Freedland says. “They dispense candy like a mechanical bank. So, I started collecting them. I’d go to the drug store, I’d see one, and I’d buy it.”

When he began collecting, Pez company officials informed him that, as far as they knew, he was one of a kind. Today, however, it’s pretty serious business — but not to Freedland who views his hobby as just “another eccentricity” of his.

Most important work

Dispensing of Pez candy and stock tips aside, Freedland turns serious when he talks about his work as an eye surgeon — what he calls the most important part of his life.

“There’s nothing better than to walk into a patient’s room and they have a smile of appreciation,” he explains. “They tell you that you made them comfortable, that they can see now. That’s what really counts.”

Freedland says he tries to remain humble, and to keep things in proper perspective. He often tells patients that as soon as he starts feeling good about himself, or believing that he has everything figured out in regards to cataract surgery, he likes to think God tries to put him back in place.

And, he feels lucky to be in that place.

“You know, if my parents hadn’t pushed and encouraged me, and if I hadn’t worked hard to get to where I am, somebody else would have taken this spot,” Freedland acknowledges. “I didn’t discover how to do cataract surgery. Some very smart people showed me how to do these things. I’m just lucky to be the one who gets to do it.”

Physician's Money Digest welcomes suggestions for future profiles at lmortkowitz@hcplive.com