In Memoriam: Robert Fishman, Former Chair of Neurology Department, Dies

December 06, 2012

Robert A. Fishman, MD, former chair of the Department of Neurology at UCSF, died on Dec. 4, 2012 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 88.

Robert A. Fishman, MD

Robert A. Fishman, MD

In 1961, Fishman and Lewis P. “Bud” Rowland became co-PI’s on a National Institutes of Health grant to study the blood-brain barrier and cerebrospinal fluid physiology and biochemistry at Columbia’s Neurological Research Institute. He was happy to be investigating scientific questions of clinical relevance, but in 1965 he was contacted by Lloyd Hollington Smith, MD, who had served with him at Walter Reed. Smith was on a search committee at UCSF, and they were looking for someone to “lead and spark” a modern department of neurology.

Smith successfully recruited Fishman telling him that UCSF was in the early stages of a renaissance, with new resources, new research towers and new faculty positions. He convinced the Fishmans to come for a four-day visit. There was a second visit, and a third.

Fishman accepted the offer in 1966 and thrived as the chairman of the UCSF Department of Neurology until 1992. During his 26 years in that role, he built an extraordinary program that brought together the best clinicians, scientists and educators in the field of neurology and has become a model for academic departments of neurology nationwide.

In addition to his 26 years of service at UCSF, Fishman served as the President of the American Neurological Association, the American Academy of Neurology and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and as Chief Editor of Annals of Neurology. He was a senior member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Fishman’s many honors and awards include the George W. Jacoby Award from the American Neurological Association in recognition for his outstanding contributions to neurology (1986) and the Distinguished Graduate Award from the University of Pennsylvania (1996) in recognition of his successful career-long efforts to enhance the study and practice of neurology while serving as a dedicated educator and mentor to his students and residents.

To read the entire in memoriam, go to the Department of Neurology's website