As a religious man, Mark Fisher didn’t have to ponder too long in deciding upon a career path. What better way, he thought, than to go through life helping people.
So, he studied medicine and chose a path that brought him and his family to Galveston where he is the chief resident of surgery at UTMB.
Life as a resident can be unpredictable, hectic and stressful. However, Fisher’s focus is unwavering, intent on helping those who least can care for themselves. After his training is complete, he will lead a multidisciplinary team researching and caring for people with a broad range of reconstructive needs such as burn victims.
Becoming a doctor was not something that came easily for the young man who was born in Japan and grew up outside of Washington, D.C. “Getting where I am today has been a struggle,” he said. “I’ve had to dig pretty deep many times to realize these dreams. And, for me, being here at UTMB, I feel like I’ve made it to the Olympic team.”
It was while he was at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center working on gene therapies for vascular diseases that Fisher realized that he wanted to help people recover from burns. “Galveston is world famous for its burn center, so why not go to the best.”
He was awarded a fellowship to come to Galveston to work under Dr. David Herndon, chief of the Blocker Burn Unit and chief of staff at Shriners Hospitals for Children-Galveston.
Working for Herndon during that period had a profound impact on Fisher. In one year, he was involved in the care of nearly 200 children and adults, most of whom had sustained burns to 40 percent or more of their bodies. Fisher recalls how Herndon led a team treating a young girl who had sustained third-degree burns to her back and legs. With such a large burn, her life was certainly in danger.
“Many would have hesitated when faced with such a devastating burn,” Fisher said. “But Dr. Herndon has shown that a radical operation to rapidly and aggressively replace all the burned, unviable tissue with living skin saves lives. So that’s what we did.”
After finishing his burn fellowship, Fisher remained at UTMB to complete his residency in general surgery. “My family and I enjoyed it here so much we decided to stay.”
Being the chief surgery resident means long days and hard work. Fisher begins his day meeting with his residents and then it’s off to rounds, examining patients and teaching his charges as they go from patient to patient. After reporting to his faculty adviser, the clock is nearing 7 a.m. and it’s time to go to the operating room. Most recently, Fisher has been assigned to Hospital Galveston, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice hospital managed by UTMB, doing operations for inmates with a series of maladies that range from colon cancer to gallbladder disease and hernias.
It isn’t all work and no play for the Fisher family. He and his wife, Yuki, love their church and they make sure that they spend as much time as possible with their three children. Several years ago, Fisher began taking cello lessons with his son, Kenji. His wife is taking violin lessons. “We hope our whole family will play together in a local orchestra one day,” he said.
A doctor’s life is not one that Fisher would recommend to just anyone. “You have to critically assess what is important to you,” he said. “Are you looking for an easy lifestyle? Is it about making a lot of money? Or do you want to do a great deal of good changing people’s lives on a daily basis? Then, I say, ‘Can there be a better job?’”