Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Mary Stuart Blakely Fisher MD 1922-2006

In a class of anything, first in the class.

It was hard to speak of her in anything but superlatives.

Mary Stuart Blakely Fisher, MD

Working as a woman doctor in the days when women were limited to 10% of the admissions to many colleges, and often excluded entirely, Mary Blakely graduated first in her co-ed class at Binghamton (NY) High School, followed by first in her class at Bryn Mawr College, and the first in her class at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. In fact, she had the highest grades in five years at Bryn Mawr and was selected as a medical intern at the Massachusetts General Hospital, going on to the nation's most prestigious radiology residency under Ross Golden at Presbyterian Hospital in New York, and subsequently with Aubry Hampton. During much of that time, she lived in Philadelphia and commuted on the train to New York. She had married me a year earlier, and the train conductor grew visibly more anxious as she became increasingly pregnant during the several-month commute from Philadelphia's Broad Street Station to Penn Station in New York. Both railroad stations have since been torn down, and the baby she was carrying has been retired for ten years after being Managing Director at Morgan Stanley.

The State of Pennsylvania required a rotating internship, and while I still believe that is the best sort of internship, it was particularly galling to have the reason given that her internship was the reason for refusing to grant her a Pennsylvania license. So she got a job at the Philadelphia Veteran's Hospital, and later at Philadelphia General Hospital, the City's charity hospital of three thousand beds. Well, she never mentioned this Philadelphia affront to a premier academic Boston institution, but I didn't. Perhaps church politics are more vicious still, but this little episode illustrates how very nasty medical politics can get. Perhaps it is a feature of the human personality everywhere, but some situations freely tolerate it, while a few others just don't.

Well, in time she was offered the chairmanship of just about every Radiology department in Philadelphia, and turned them down, saying she didn't want to be chairman of any department. Perhaps she meant any department in Pennsylvania, but she never did make her feelings known. Eventually, she did become Professor of Radiology at Temple University, where she happily taught the residents for many years, during the course of which she was given the Madam Curie Award, the Lindback Award, and various other honors. She had an amazing facility to start dictating reports on x-rays before they were completely out of the envelope and always won the interdepartmental contest for diagnosis of strange films, to the point where other, mostly male, radiologists were afraid to compete with her. She won the Lindback Award for Excellence in Teaching. I used to say I didn't know whether she was any good or not, but I never met a radiologist who wasn't thoroughly intimidated by her ability to make a strange diagnosis at a glance. All her life she got along with five hours of sleep, invariably getting to bed after me and getting up the next morning before I did. Essentially, there were twenty-eight hours in her day.

So it wasn't just radiology where she excelled. Her father once told me there was nothing she could turn her hand to, where she didn't excel. Especially female skills. She was past the point of competing with males and beating them, but female skills were something else. She was a master cook, a demon housekeeper, a champion seamstress, a masterful dinner partner. Athletics were never attempted because she knew very well that men hate to be beaten at golf or tennis. It was the era of Kathryn Hepburn and Grace Kelly, and with a minimum of makeup, she turned heads where ever she went with that Bryn Mawr look about her and her painfully simple clothes. Several of my classmates, usually from Princeton, was struck dumb by her looks. For example, my book editor from Macmillan had a classmate of mine for his doctor. That Park Avenue physician never married and confined to the editor that he had been carrying a torch for her, all his life. It brought to mind the boastful lines from Congreve, in The Way of the World:

"If there be a delight in love, 'Tis when I see,
The heart that others bleed for -- bleed for me."

Women Pioneers in Radiology: Mary Stuart Fisher, M.D.

Women Pioneers in Radiology: Mary Stuart Fisher, M.D.

Some readers may remember Dr. Mary Stuart Fisher as the recipient of the 1992 Marie Curie Award, honored for her contributions furthering the progress of women in radiology. Professor Emeritus in the Department of Diagnostic Imaging at Temple University, she continues to work part-time, teaching students and physicians as she has done for the past 43 years. Dr. Fisher reflects on her life in radiology in a recent interview with Focus contributor Kelly Mc Aleese.

KM: Why did you go into medicine?

MSF: I really wanted to be a research biologist, but my father, who was an obstetrician, said I didn’t have the skills for that field and recommended medicine instead. Possibly because I grew up during the Depression, he always insisted I’d have to be able to earn a living. I applied to medical school during World War II when there were few male applicants, which allowed more women (entry) for a brief period.

KM: Why did you choose radiology as a career?

MSF: My husband-to-be talked me into it, but I didn’t know beans about radiology at the time. It’s funny because I consider myself a feminist of sorts, but I’ve made a lot of decisions because all these men in my life told me to do it.

KM: What other role models did you have?

MSF: Ross Golden (Goldens Text) and Lois Collins during my radiology residency at Columbia Presbyterian. Some people say that my style of teaching is very similar to hers (Collins)...and of course George Wohl, my first boss.

KM: Where did you do your training?

MSF: I started at Columbia and was married after my first year (of training). My husband was working in Bethesda at the time (during the Korean War), so I commuted two hours each way every day for about a year. I was pregnant during the time, and the train conductor became noticeably more worried each month I was more pregnant. I finally moved to Washington, D.C., where I completed my training at Grover, Christie and Merritt. We moved back to Philadelphia. Because I had done a mixed internship, I couldn’t get a license to work in Philadelphia (as) I didn’t have training in obstetrics which was required at that time to practice. I was delighted to be offered a position at the VA (hospital), where a Pennsylvania license was not required. I stayed in Philadelphia at the Philadelphia General Hospital until it closed, at which time I was functioning as the de facto chairman.

KM: What do you like about radiology?

MSF: I loved radiology from the start! It’s so much fun, functioning as a consultant, being the “heart of the hospital,” having your finger on all of the clinical pulses. I started doing everything (in radiology) 20 years ago, but have since concentrated (where I was most needed) in the areas of chest, bone, and mammography.

KM: How did you become interested in teaching medical students and residents?

MSF: Well, I didn’t really have a choice at first. During my first job at the VA, my chairman assigned me to teach the students. Now, I enjoy teaching a great deal. I enjoy the enthusiasm and the information.

KM: What information?

MSF: The senior medical students know all sorts of things I don’t. They teach me a lot and keep me from slipping into an “intellectual rut”.

KM: What is your greatest achievement in radiology?

MSF: That’s easy, winning the Golden Apple Award for Teaching at Temple. (For the record, Dr. Fisher has had numerous other honors, including Fellowship in the American College of Radiology. She is also the past president of the Philadelphia Roentgen Ray Society.)

Dr. Fisher has an active personal life, as well as a busy professional career. The mother of four children and grandmother of eight, she and her husband enjoy music, reading and traveling when they can find the time in their busy schedules.

The author expresses her appreciation to Dr. Fisher for her insight into the life of a women pioneer in the field of radiology.

Mary Stuart Blakely Fisher, MD 1922-2006 Photos

Teacher, Mentor receives Marie Curie Award Decenber 3, 1992

Mary Stuart Fisher, MD and AAWR President Katherine A. Shaffer, MD.

Mary Stuart Fisher, M.D described by her peers as a consummate radiologist and widely recognized teacher, received the Marie Curie Award from the American Association for Women Radiologists (AAWR) at the group’s luncheon on Tuesday. As chairman at Philadelphia General Hospital, and more recently, a professor in the Department of Diagnostic Imaging at Temple University Hospital, Dr. Fisher has taught legions of medical students radiology residents, and colleagues over the past 25 years.

Early in her career, Dr. Fisher was acknowledged as a clinical expert in GI radiology. At Temple, she created the radiology teaching program for medical students, now one of the most popular in the school, and she developed a specialty section in chest radiology. She directed the residency teaching program for several years as well.

Distinguished resident

The AAWR also presented the 1992 Distinguished Resident Award to Elizabeth L. Gerard, MD, a senior resident in diagnostic radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Gerard was a springboard and platform diver with the U.S. national team. She was a finalist in the 1984 Olympic trials while attending medical school at the University of California San Diego. She subsequently interned at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and has completed a clinical research fellowship in MR imaging. Currently, she is a GI interventional radiology fellow and continues her research in MR imaging with clinically applied work.

Radiology October 2006 In Memoriam


Dr. Mary Stuart Fisher, the mother figure of Philadelphia Radiology, died on April 24, 2006, at the age of 83 years.

Dr. Fisher was active in her faculty position at Temple University Medical School (Philadelphia, Pa) until the last three 3 years of her life. For more than 50 years, she taught hundreds of residents and thousands of medical students about radiology at the Philadelphia Veterans Administration Hospital, the Philadelphia General Hospital, and the Temple University Medical School. She was a role model for many of the women among them.

Dr. Fisher came into medicine at a time when women were accepted as students but not always as equals. She graduated first in her high school class in Binghamton, NY, first in her class at Bryn Mawr College, and first in her class at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (New York, NY) in 1948. She completed her internship at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and her radiology residency at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

After a fellowship with Groover, Christie, and Merritt (Washington, DC), a private group that maintained its own training programs. Dr. Fisher accepted an offer at the Philadelphia Veterans Administration Hospital, as shared service for several medical schools. She taught students and residents from all five of them. After 8 years, she came to Philadelphia General Hospital, also a service shared by several medical schools. When the Philadelphia General Hospital closed in 1975, her former resident, Marc Lapayocher, head of diagnosis at Temple University, recruited her to the position where she spent the rest of her 50-year academic career.

Dr. Fisher was a member of the American Medical Association, the Philadelphia County Medical Society, and the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the Radiological Society of North America, and the American College of Radiology, the Association of University Radiology, and the American Association of Women in Radiology, the Society of Thoracic Radiology, and the Pennsylvania Radiological Society. She served as a consultant to the National Board of Medical Examiners.

Dr. Fisher’s bibliography contains some 50 papers and chapters. She received her most pleasing award for teaching from Temple University, including the Golden Apple award, which was selected by medical students in 1990. She received the Honored Radiologist award from Pennsylvania Radiological Society in 1985 and the Outstanding Educator award from the Philadelphia Roentgen Ray Society in 1992. The same year, the American Association for Women Radiologists gave her the Marie Curie Award, its highest recognition. The Philadelphia Roentgen Ray Society renamed its annual Outstanding Educator award for her in 2006.

She is survived by her husband, George Ross Fisher III; daughters, Miriam and Margaret; and sons George and Stuart.

Otha W. Linton, MSJ

Michael S. Huckman, M.D.Letter

Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center

1753 West Congress Parkway, Chicago, Illinois 60612

(312) 942-5781

Department of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine

Richard E. Buenger, M.D. Chairman

Ernest W. Fordham, M.D. Vice Chairman

Computed Tomography and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

John W. Clark, M.D. Director

Gastrointestinal Radiology

Richard Gardiner, M.D. Director

Claire S. Smith, M.D.

Alvin H. Felman, M.D., Director

Radiology Residency Program

University Hospital of Jacksonville

655 West Eighth Street

Jacksonville, Florida 32209

Dear Al,

Thanks for your letter of August 2, 1984. I do not participate in the decision-making involving the CT Ultrasound fellowship, but I’m sure Jerry will give the application every consideration. Congratulations on being asked to give the lecture in honor of Mary Fisher. It’s hard to speak about her except in superlatives. As you may know, she and her husband were known as the Duke of Harrisburg and Duchess of Altoona. She said that it had to do with the fact that both of their ancestors had received large grants of land from William Penn and from some English royalty.

I recall that Mary religiously attended the Thursday night conferences. She would hop in her 53 Chevy (or her Checker Limo) at about 4:00 p.m., drive home to Haddonfield, cook dinner and drive back to be on time for the conference. That was certainly the ultimate in dedication.

You might want to mention something about her little book which held the densities of various grades of glass and fish bones and a bunch of other facts that weren’t worth committing to memory but were certainly worth knowing. If I think of anything else I will let you know.

Warmest personal regards,

Michael S. Huckman, M.D.


Letter from Radiology Associates Albert Einstein Medical Center

Radiology Associates

Albert Einstein

Medical Center

York and Tabor Roads,

Philadelphia, Pa. 19141

Alvin H. Felman, M.D.

Department of Radiology

University Hospital

of Jacksonville

655 West Eighth Street

Jacksonville, Florida 32209

Dear Al,

I’m sure that by now you’ve decided that either the letter you sent me was lost or that the cold here in Pennsylvania has softened my brain so that I was unable to reply. While the later impression is probably correct, it did take me a little while to get together some of this material. Enclosed in this envelope you will find slides of Drs. Herman Ostrum, Russel Miller, and Bernie Widman. You will also find a group picture of many of the residents and staff from the time while we were residents. You’ll note that the picture does include Bill Serber, Mary Fisher and Herman Ostrum. Russ Miller and Myron Blumberg were evidently not around on that day, which is actually nothing different than Myron’s current status.

There is also a copy of a portion of the program from the first annual dinner of the Blockley Radiologic Society which may be of some interest.

I really don’t have any informative anecdotes about Mary. Although I believe then and still believe now that she is the finest all-around Diagnostic Radiologist in the Philadelphia area, her personality is such that it does not lend itself to humorous incidents. I still see her almost monthly at the Philadelphia Roentgen Ray Society Dinners and often sit with her. She is a marvelous raconteur and a dedicated physician and family member. She often speaks to me of her children and occasionally of her travels. When PGH closed she was instrumental in a massive effort to transfer most of the teaching file from the Radiology Department at PGH to the College of Physicians where it now resides.

I hope that some of this information is helpful to you. I look forward to your presentation honoring Mary and to seeing you at the Pennsylvania Radiologic Society in May.

Warmest regards,

Arthur D. Magilner, M.D.

Chairman, Dept. of Diagnostic Radiology

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University / New York, N.Y Letter

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University / New York, N.Y.

Department of Radiology

David H. Baker, M.D.

James Picker Professor and Chairman

622 West 168th Street

Telephone: (212) 694-6408

January 14, 1985

Alvin H. Felman, M.D.

University Hospital of


655 West Eighth Street

Jacksonville, Florida 32209

Dear Al:

Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle collaborated and have finally found a picture of Dr. Fisher which I have had made into a slide and I am sending to you. We had no record of Dr. Fisher as a resident but we were able to find Mary Stuart Blakely as a medical student who graduated in 1948. She interned at the Massachusetts General Hospital in 1949 and started her radiology residency here on October 1, 1949. She was appointed by Dr. Ross Golden. She wrote to Dr. Golden on July 30th, 1949 from Venice where she was spending the summer with her parents. The letter on July 30th noted that her address in Paris to the middle of August would be American Express Company, in Edinburgh until the end of August and in London through the first week in September. Sounds like a nice summer. A letter from Dr. Loeb to Dr. Golden on September 7 states that Dr. Blakely was the number one student in her class and was offered an internship at the Presbyterian Hospital but preferred early acceptance at Massachusetts General where she went. While she was in medical school she won the Janeway Prize and was equally glowing. Her record then becomes a little bit sparse. The last two notes in her record are one from Ross Golden to Dean Rappleye suggesting that Mary Blakely Fisher, so she has obviously married in the interim, had resigned her assistant Residency as of May 1 to have a baby and to follow her husband to Bethesda. On the last notation, there is a letter to Dr. Christie from Dr. Golden suggesting that Mary Blakely Fisher was moving to Washington with her husband George Fisher. He also suggested that she was an outstanding student and an excellent resident and he recommended that she was an outstanding student and an excellent resident and he recommended that she contact Dr. Christie to be able to finish her training in the Washington area and that is the last we know of her.

I hope this has been helpful. It took a lot of doing. You owe me one.


David H. Baker, M.D.


MVP of the Medical School

Temple University Letter: Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation award

Temple University Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19122

April 17, 1985

Dr. Mary S. Fisher

203 Chews Landing Road

Haddonfield, NJ 08033

Dear Dr. Fisher,

I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected as one of the six members of the faculty to receive the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation award for distinguished teaching. The official presentation will be made at the luncheon which will be held at the Hilton Hotel in the Ballroom/Assembly Salon A and B immediately following the Commencement exercises on Thursday, May 23. You are, of course, invited to bring a guest.

Historically, Temple University has been an institution in which the importance of excellence in teaching is paramount. Accordingly, we are most grateful to the Lindback Foundation for making possible the opportunity to honor those of you who have been chosen for special recognition.

This is confidential information until the University releases it.

I congratulate you and look forward to the opportunity of honoring you publicly at the Commencement luncheon.


Peter J. Liacouras

PJL: dd

University Hospital of Jacksonville Letter

University Hospital of Jacksonville

655 West Eighth Street

Jacksonville, Florida 32209

Telephone 904-350-6899

Gene Mc Leod


May 22, 1985

Michael B. Dooley, M.D.

Department of Radiology

Phoenixville Hospital

140 Nutt Road

Phoenixville, PA 19460

Dear Mike,

Lynne and I made it back to Jacksonville with no problem. We want to again express our appreciation to you for a fantastic visit.

Your selection of Mary for this award is, without doubt, one of the highlights of my career in medicine. I hope you realize how great we all feel it was.

Thanks again for all you did. I hope will cross again. With best wishes,

Sincerely yours,

Alvin H. Felman, M.D.

Professor Radiology




10 Blogs

Mary Stuart Blakely Fisher, MD
First in any class.

Women Pioneers in Radiology: Mary Stuart Fisher, M.D.
New blog 2018-08-14 19:52:35 description

Mary Stuart Blakely Fisher, MD 1922-2006 Photos
New blog 2017-07-26 20:20:33 description

Teacher, Mentor receives Marie Curie Award Decenber 3, 1992
New blog 2017-09-19 20:53:21 description

Radiology October 2006 In Memoriam
New blog 2017-09-20 18:59:26 description

Michael S. Huckman, M.D.Letter
New blog 2017-10-17 18:20:19 description

Letter from Radiology Associates Albert Einstein Medical Center
A letter from MSF's former resident.

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University / New York, N.Y Letter
New blog 2017-10-16 20:07:45 description

Temple University Letter: Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation award
New blog 2017-10-16 19:52:08 description

University Hospital of Jacksonville Letter
New blog 2017-10-16 19:59:27 description