The (Medical) Education of Charles Miller Fisher

By , February 15, 2014

Glass plate negative of a brain section.

Staff at the Center for the History of Medicine are completing the processing of the papers of Charles Miller Fisher (1913-2012), a noted neurologist. The collection reflects Fisher’s activities as a practicing physician and neurological researcher.

Fisher attended medical school at Victoria University and the University of Toronto Medical  School. He entered Victoria University straight from high school; the medical degree tracks required no intervening BA or BS degrees. There were two options for students wanting to study medicine: Straight Medicine and Biology and Medicine. The former had a six year course, the latter, a seven year, including special instruction in science and the arts. Fisher entered the Biology and Medicine track with 25 other young men. According to Fisher’s recollections, the Straight Medicine track attracted more students: 120 men and 20 women at his matriculation.

The Biology and Medicine course (Fisher refers to it as “B and M” in his memoirs) included both pre-clinical and clinical work. Looking back, Fisher remembers particularly vividly the coursework in physics and anatomy: “The students’ nemesis was the practical examination when 100 human anatomical specimens of various kinds were laid out in orderly fashion on long tables and in an equally long procession the students advanced from specimen to specimen being given 60 seconds to answer the question posed…”

Fisher received a B.A. from Victoria University in Toronto in 1935 and his M.D. from the University of Toronto Medical School in 1938. He was born in Ontario and returned to Canada during the early years of his career; in 1954, he took a teaching post at Harvard Medical School and joined the neurology service at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Fisher spent the next half century at MGH and Harvard University, where he created and led the first formal Stroke Service. When Charles Miller Fisher, M.D., died on April 14, 2012, his obituary in JAMA Neurology reported that “the field of neurology lost one of its 20th century giants.”

The Charles M. Fisher papers will be open to researchers later this spring.


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