Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sinai Hospital Mourns Longtime Surgeon

Sinai Hospital is deeply saddened by the death of associate surgeon-in-chief Rhonda S. Fishel, M.D., MBA, FACS.

"Dr. Fishel taught generations of medical students and residents not only how to be excellent surgeons, but how to be compassionate physicians," says Neil Meltzer, President of Sinai Hospital. "Even once she became ill, Dr. Fishel remained committed to working with physicians, residents and patients at Sinai. Her tenacity and commitment were admirable, and she will be missed."

Dr. Fishel, 55, who was diagnosed with uterine sarcoma five years ago, continued to work at Sinai until a few weeks ago.

“Other people would have quit earlier, but she was really old-school and believed in her work,” says Thomas Genuit, MD, MBA, FACS, interim chief of the Department of Surgery and head of the Division of Trauma “She always fought for what she believed in, namely her patients.”

Dr. Genuit says Dr. Fishel received numerous accolades for her teaching, including the Golden Apple Award for Outstanding Teacher from Sinai in 1995.

“She had a way of making you learn not by being harsh, but by being kind, and using humor to point out mistakes,” he says.

In recent years, Dr. Fishel used her experiences as both doctor and patient to develop a presentation for physicians titled “Giving and Receiving Bad News: Lessons I Learn.”

"I never understood what it felt like physically until I had to go through it. It's like a pain in your chest,” she told the Baltimore Sun in 2006. She gave the presentation across the country, including at the annual meeting of the American Medical Student Association in 2007.

Dr. Fishel spent the majority of her career in Baltimore, graduating from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1979, and completing a fellowship in surgical research at Sinai in 1983. She was the director of surgical care and the director of trauma services at Sinai until 1997, when she became the director of trauma services at Lakeland Regional Medical Center in Florida. She returned to Sinai in 2000, becoming the associate surgeon-in-chief at Sinai, and a professor of surgery at Hopkins. In addition to the Golden Apple Award, she was honored as Sinai Surgical Resident of the Year in 1986, received the Golden Scapel Award from the Sinai Department of Surgery in 1992, and was voted a “Person of the Year” by Baltimore Magazine in 2006. A lifelong learner, Dr. Fishel earned her MBA from Hopkins in 2006.

In her spare time, she had a stand-up comedy routine that she performed locally and for family.

“She was very funny; she loved humor. We are better people for having known her,” says Lois Hagstrom, Sinai manager of Surgical Specialties, a coworker and friend of Dr. Fishel for close to 30 years.

In addition to her wife Michaela (Mickey) Barron, Dr. Fishel was close to her brothers’ families, and especially proud that one of her nephews, Dr. Matthew Fishel, became a pediatrician, Hagstrom says. An avid animal lover, Dr. Fishel was especially passionate about Great Danes.

“They had several over the years, and I hope they are waiting for her,” she says.

In addition to her wife and nephews, Dr. Fishel is survived by brothers Larry and Alan Fishel, and one niece. Services will be held tomorrow at 3 p.m. at Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc., 8900 Reisterstown Road at Mount Wilson Lane.

In lieu of flowers, please send contributions in her memory to the Alvin & Lois Lapidus Cancer Institute, Sinai Hospital, 2401 W. Belvedere Ave., Baltimore, MD, 21215. The family will be at home at 15 Shaded Glen Court, Owings Mills, MD, 21117.

-Elizabeth Leis-Newman

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