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Dr. Faith Thayer Fitzgerald





Year of Birth / Death

b. 1943


Medical School

University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine


Geography

LOCATION
California


Career Path

Education: Teaching
Dr. Faith Thayer Fitzgerald



Inspiration

I grew from childhood knowing I would be a doctor, and cannot say why other than that it was vocational. In retrospect, and to my profound satisfaction, it turned out to be a true call.



Biography

Dr. Faith Thayer Fitzgerald has devoted her career to educating the next generation of physicians. "I try to exemplify to students and house staff the exhilaration of medicine, the honor and awesome responsibility of patient trust and the beauty of the scientific thought process," she says. In the last twenty years she has won over thirty teaching awards for her work on the art and science of medicine, and she continues to uphold the highest standards for herself and her students.

"The core value of physicians," wrote Dr. Fitzgerald in a New York Academy of Sciences article in 2002, "[is] to serve their individual patients as best they can with the resources available and to seek for better ways to do so—that is the enduring and essential lesson of medical education."

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Dr. Fitzgerald knew from early childhood that she would be a physician. Working to support herself and her education from the age of 14, Dr. Fitzgerald has built her career in the University of California school system she graduated from. After completing undergraduate studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Dr. Fitzgerald went directly on to the University of California, San Francisco, where she received her M.D. degree in 1969. She remained at the University of California, San Francisco, for her residency in internal medicine and for her first position as instructor of medicine. In 1978 she left California and spent two years as assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Since 1980 Dr. Fitzgerald has taught at the University of California, Davis, where she now serves as professor of medicine, assistant dean of student affairs and acting chair of the Department of Dermatology.

At the University of California, Davis, Dr. Fitzgerald has received over three dozen teaching awards. In 2002 she received the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society's Robert J. Glaser Award for providing medical students with an outstanding educational experience. Additional teaching awards include the American College of Physicians Distinguished Teacher Award, the California Medical Association Golden Apple Award and the University of California, San Francisco Gold Headed Cane. In addition to this national and regional recognition, medical students and faculty have each voted repeatedly to award Dr. Fitzgerald with their highest honors. She was chosen as the University of California, Davis, Senior Class Outstanding Clinical Teacher seven times and she was named the Department of Medicine Distinguished Faculty Teacher on four separate occasions.

Noted for holding herself and her students to the highest ethical and professional standards, Dr. Fitzgerald shares her knowledge and philosophy with students throughout the world. She has served as visiting professor and lecturer in thirty states in the United States and ten foreign countries. A master of the American College of Physicians, Dr. Fitzgerald cites Hibbard Williams, M.D., as her mentor. "His gift was a perpetual manifest joy in doing medicine, in teaching, and a continual aspiration to excellence." Educating the next generation of physicians, Dr. Fitzgerald upholds those same values and is committed to the highest standards in medical education.



Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

There were no real obstacles. Though I worked to support myself and my education from the age of 14 on, scholarships and the then low costs at the Universities of California allowed me to progress through without impediment. No fully lived life is without times of trouble, but none—with the help of others—were insurmountable.

How do I make a difference?

I try to exemplify to students and house staff the exhilaration of medicine, the honor and awesome responsibility of patient trust, and the beauty of the scientific thought process. I hope to have given allowance and opportunity to younger doctors to enjoy this work as much as I do.

Who was my mentor?

I have had many mentors, but one in particular, Hibbard Williams, M.D., was my teacher when I was a student, then chief of medicine when I was chief resident at San Francisco General Hospital, then dean of the School of Medicine at University of California, Davis. His gift was a perpetual manifest joy in doing medicine, in teaching, and a continual aspiration to excellence.

How has my career evolved over time?

As with many in academic medicine, the struggle has been to do the administrative work necessary to maintain the system without sacrificing the direct attention due to the objects of that same system—patients, students and the advancement of the art and science of medicine.