James A. “Jim” Fischer, a highly regarded UC Davis cardiologist and beloved mentor, died Sept. 8, 2017, in Sacramento.
Fischer graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1966 and went on to serve in the U.S. Army from 1972-74 as a major and chief of cardiology at Fort Ord Army Hospital in Monterey, Calif. He then moved his family to Sacramento, where he practiced internal medicine and cardiology until his first retirement in 1996. Seven years later, Fischer joined the UC Davis Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, in large part to help train the next generation of cardiologists.
"Jim Fischer was an outstanding clinician who really focused his efforts on the education and training of our cardiology fellows in the clinic,” said Reginald Low, chief of cardiovascular medicine and a colleague who helped recruit Fischer to UC Davis. “He shared his wisdom, experience, knowledge and compassion for patient care, and it truly made a difference in the careers and lives of our physicians."
“I find it impossible to really express in words the qualities of Jim that made him a rare and remarkable man,” added cardiologist Ezra Amsterdam, another longtime colleague and friend. “He was genuinely connected to others with rare and understated personal warmth.”
Fischer’s passion for research and education made an indelible mark on UC Davis’ Cardiovascular Fellowship Program. Beyond mentorship and training in clinical care, he encouraged fellows to make sure they maintained a healthy work-life balance. When trainees presented him with a photobook several years ago to honor his decade of service at the medical center, it was filled with family photos and words of praise for both Fischer’s teaching ability and the importance he placed on both a career in medicine and family.
“We love that you are genuinely interested in our lives outside of fellowships,” one physician wrote in the book, which echoed the sentiments of many others. “You are truly a role model with your dedication to cardiology, teaching, exercise and health, and maintaining a healthy balance between work and family.”
Running was a lifelong passion of Fischer, from his early days as a state champion high school track star in North Dakota to jogging up to five miles a day until his death. He completed more than 36 marathons, including six Boston marathons.
That spirit and passion for life resonated with Fischer’s patients. As one noted in a sympathy card following his passing, Fischer had a “friendly spirit” and “fabulous doctor skills,” plus he offered “inspirational encouragement to work at good health.”
“He was really addicted to life,” said cardiologist William Bommer, a close friend and the cardiovascular fellowship director at UC Davis. “He was the top-ranked teacher, and honored with our division’s lifetime achievement award because he focused on the importance of both career planning and life goals. The legacy of Jim Fischer will benefit physicians, and patients, forever.”
Fischer, who was 77, is survived by his wife Karen; two daughters and a granddaughter; three siblings and numerous other relatives.
A Celebration of Life is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, at 2 p.m., at Fremont Presbyterian Church, 5770 Carlson Dr., Sacramento.
In honor of his legacy as an outstanding teacher and clinician, a fund has been established in Dr. Fischer's name to benefit the Cardiovascular Fellowship Program. Tax-deductible donations to the “James A. Fischer, M.D., Cardiovascular Fellowship Education and Research Fund” are payable to the UC Davis Foundation. Donations can be made online at https://give.ucdavis.edu/go/FischerMemorial or by mail to Health Sciences Advancement, 4900 Broadway, Ste. 1150, Sacramento, CA, 95820.