Courtesy of Yale School of Medicine

Rosemarie Fisher — professor emerita of medicine, emerita director of Resident/Fellow Well-being, and Title IX Deputy Coordinator in the Office of the Provost — recently received this year’s Female Physician Leadership Award, a new distinction created by the Connecticut Chapter of the American College of Physicians. 

The award will be named after Fisher. As a female leader in the field who has held a wide range of positions during her career, Fisher helped create the award while serving on the American College of Physicians Connecticut Chapter Awards Committee, which advocates for awards to highlight diversity, equity and inclusion in medicine. Much to her surprise, Fisher was informed that she had earned the Female Physician Leadership Award during a Zoom call a few weeks ago with the committee. The honor recognizes the inclusion of women in internal medicine, which aligns with Fisher’s many years of dedication.

“She really became a role model for many, many physicians training and younger faculty, as a woman who was able to manage both a professional life and a personal life and be very successful in doing that,” Asghar Rastegar, professor emeritus of medicine, said. “She was an outstanding doctor. … she really cared for her patients.”

Fisher and Rastegar met in 1985, when Fisher was an assistant professor at Yale and worked in the Gastrointestinal Department at the West Haven VA Medical Center. The two have been friends for over three and a half decades. Rastegar said he has witnessed her caring demeanor and unique, efficient way of managing and teaching, as well as her integral role in leading the residency program at the Yale University School of Medicine.

As the director of the House Staff Training Program and as associate dean of Graduate Medical Education, Fisher oversaw a large program consisting of about 800 residents undergoing training in various specialties for over a decade. Rastegar noted her ability to connect with others and lead with empathy, while simultaneously being the first director of the residency program and the first woman in his department to become a professor. 

“She cared about trainees on an extremely personal level,” Rastegar said. “She became close to them, cared about them, developed a relationship that lasted beyond that time that year.”

Deborah Proctor, who is a professor at the School of Medicine and medical director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program, recognized a similar aspect of kindness in Fisher’s character. Also a longtime colleague and companion of Fisher since their first introduction in September of 1998, Proctor emphasized Fisher’s “brilliant, warm, kind-hearted” nature, which was instantly brought on by her “big hug and huge smile.”

“Rosemarie is a giant in GI — she exemplified the saying, ‘If we stand tall, it is because we stand on the backs of those who have gone before us,’” Proctor said. 

Fisher told the News that she has been a member of numerous committees, ranging from University to national committees. She has a particular interest in advocating for the improvement of the American healthcare system, specifically through delivering care to underrepresented populations. Fisher is also currently a leader in fostering gender equality on campus as the Deputy Title IX Coordinator for the Office of the Provost.

After receiving her MD from Tufts University, Fisher has gone on to take leadership roles in her work at Montefiore Hospital in New York, Royal Free Hospital London in England and the Yale University School of Medicine. As designated institutional official and associate dean of Graduate Medical Education, she grew the singular existing residency program into around 100 programs with about 1100 trainees.

“I’m coming from a time where we had seven women in my medical school class, out of 128 or something like that,” Fisher said. “The minute they asked you if you would sit on a committee, you didn’t say no because there weren’t that many women and if you didn’t do it, nobody else was going to do it.”

Despite facing the obstacles of being a woman in science before Title IX legislation and the current, more gender-balanced medical field, Fisher was able to take on influential roles and has received many accolades — notably the Dema Daley Founders Award from the Association of Program Directors of Internal Medicine in 2011.

Cyrus Kapadia, professor emeritus of internal medicine, described his close relationship with Fisher, which began in 1974 at Yale. After this initial meeting, their careers overlapped for many years, in which he saw the admiration and respect from her colleagues that she earned throughout her career.

“She began to be respected and found herself on several committees, et cetera, when many women didn’t, and so she was one of the early trendsetters,” Kapadia said. “It was a genuine personality that took her through.”

After being named as the recipient of the Female Physician Leadership Award, Fisher described feelings of humility and appreciation. 

Fisher said her deep commitment to her profession is not only driven by her desire to promote women in STEM but also derives from the support she received from her parents and the values they instilled in her. She explained that her father graduated from high school as an adult while she was entering ninth grade. At one point, he earned a factory wage of only 16 cents an hour.

Fisher hopes the award will encourage other women to become more involved in their states’ chapters of supportive organizations, such as the American College of Physicians.

The American College of Physicians was founded in 1915. 

Amelia Lower | amelia.lower@yale.edu