H. Keith Fischer, MD, FAPM
by Barney Dlin, MD, FAPM
[Reprinted from APM Newsletter, January 1996]
Keith, my good friend and colleague of 44 years, died suddenly and peacefully while sitting comfortably at home enjoying the Dallas-Philadelphia football game — a perfect ending for an all-star quarterback whose teams were never defeated.
Keith grew up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He met his wife, Dorothy, while he was an intern at Lycoming Hospital in Williamsport, PA. The third of four siblings, he excelled in academics, sports, and music. He worked his way through school by playing the piano in local bands.
According to his younger brother, Bob, young Keith was always organizing other kids into clubs and making up the rules as he went along. It seemed clear that by age 9 the ingredients of leadership — imagination, drive, and competence — were already in place. These traits provided the foundation that shaped his destiny. He helped to found the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine and went on to become its president. He wrote the current APM constitution and was program chair and assistant editor of our journal for many years. Keith was instrumental in guiding the Academy through difficult times and worked hard to frame the base for its present successful growth.
After serving as medical officer on a destroyer in WWII, Keith returned to Philadelphia to do a year in pathology and became Edward Weiss’s first psychosomatic resident. He completed his training there in psychosomatic illnesses, especially the cardiovascular diseases. Keith rose to the presidency of the Philadelphia Psychiatric Society, the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society, and the oldest medical club in America, the Medical Club of Philadelphia. Amazingly, Keith was able to publish 93 papers on his research and book reviews and found time to provide many years of service to the Pennsylvania Board of Public Welfare and the Pennsylvania State Commission on Mental Health and Mental Retardation in Harrisburg.
Keith was a man of character and a man of principal. His life was dedicated to achieving a balance between his devotion to family, community, profession, and leisure time. In his profession, he kept his feet firmly planted in clinical practice, teaching, and research. His was the perfect mix. He was a member of the faculty of Temple University Health Science Center for 50 years. Here he started the first open psychiatric inpatient unit and the first art therapy program in Pennsylvania. He retired as clinical professor of psychiatry.
Keith loved his family and always took great pride in relating his children’s accomplishments. David, Ann, and Nancy were very special to him. He took even more delight in quietly boasting about each of his six grandchildren. Through it all there was Dorothy, his best friend and constant companion. Theirs was a loving marriage of 50 years.
Keith embraced life and made every day count. He loved a challenge. He was a man who used everything he had to live this balanced life to its fullest. He lived it as he planned and died as he wanted. I’ll miss my good friend and in my heart I will celebrate his life, for his was a great journey.