by Monique Faith Boodram, Freshman, Sam Houston State University
On September 24th, one of the greatest figures in medicine would have turned seventy-nine, but after leaving this world on December 3rd 2021, Dr. Faith T. Fitzgerald will not be present as we celebrate her life and service. Dr. Fitzgerald has made her impact on doctors, students, and patients for decades, fueling a most inimitable force for diagnostics and medical education. It may have been the vast work she shared with us, or the countless awards of excellence that could have struck awe into anyone interested in medicine, but it was her loving smile and most benevolent, singular character that touched those who knew her and those she never even met.
It is saddening to know that this generation will not have the opportunity to have the UC Davis professor in the flesh and blood, leading rounds and “Stump The Professor” lectures, which was a delight for all who craved the mastery of diagnostics. However, the legacy left behind gives us more than enough to learn about and to envision the doctor she was.
One who dabbles in medicine, its history, and the subjects that connect to the field may be familiar with the suggestions that Sherlock Holmes’ skills in crime detection can be easily associated with medical diagnostics, a primary part of the internist’s profession. Now, picture an “adaptation” of Sherlock Holmes, if you will. This Sherlock Holmes is a woman of our times, in our reality. She would make her “Dark Rounds” starting at three in the morning, eager to have time with her patients, colleagues, and students. As written in her article “The Bedside Sherlock Holmes,” Dr. Fitzgerald emphasized keen observations and induction, not only of the body, but of the things that characterized patients, from their clothing to their jewelry, because to her, patients were not only subjects of medical cases— they were people.
She understood humanism and how it needed to be applied to medical practice. The time taken to talk with her patients and to learn more about their stories was valuable to her so much that in the later part of her career as an esteemed professor, Dr. Fitzgerald designated an hour to work with each of her patients. No patient was uninteresting to her, and she had to get the message across to her students. As quoted from her article titled “Curiosity,” she remarked that, “To the physician, curiosity leads not only to diagnoses but to great stories and memories, those irreplaceable “moments in medicine” that we live for.” Dr. Fitzgerald encouraged those in medicine to not only embed themselves in the scientific part of the work, but to create better connections with patients by embracing their passions in the Fine Arts to understand human expression, no doubt having her own interests in art such as poetry and literature.
Dr. Fitzgerald was one who knew that she wanted to become a doctor since her beginnings, and she was one who knew that she wanted to dedicate the rest of her medical career to patient care and sharing that passion with others. Of everything that she has taught, there is one lesson that stands out, one that defines the person that made the doctor who we all will miss so dearly. That lesson is on empathy. Dr. Fitzgerald did not pity or merely try to understand people’s hardships. She committed herself to compassion and did everything in her power to be a beacon of light for the people she encountered, from those in the patient rooms to those in the lecture halls.
Monique Faith Boodram is a current freshman studying Biomedical Sciences at Sam Houston State University. An AMWA social media ambassador and pre-medical member of AMWA, she looks forward to pursuing the role of doctor and educator in the world of diagnostics, or perhaps surgery. When at a loose end, you can find Monique learning about science communication or medical humanism, or she might settle for immersing herself in a Sherlock Holmes or P.G. Wodehouse book, sharing her findings through her blog and Twitter.
Sources for further reading:
Changing the Face of Medicine | Faith Thayer Fitzgerald. cfmedicine.nlm.nih.gov/physicians/biography_113.html. Accessed 11 Sept. 2022.
“Dr. Faith Fitzgerald’s Virtual Memorial Ceremony.” Facebook, uploaded by UC Davis School of Medicine, 12 Mar. 2022, m.facebook.com/events/d41d8cd9/dr-faith-fitzgeralds-virtual-memorial-ceremony/476195550712154.
“Faith FITZGERALD Obituary.” Neptune Society of Northern California, obituaries.neptune-society.com/obituaries/sacramento-ca/faith-fitzgerald-10479974. Accessed 11 Sept. 2022.
Fitzgerald, Faith T. “Curiosity.” Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 130, no. 1, American College of Physicians, Jan. 1999, p. 70. https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-130-1-199901050-00015.
Fitzgerald, Faith T. “Dark Rounds.” Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 138, no. 9, American College of Physicians, May 2003, p. 763. https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-138-9-200305060-00015.
Fitzgerald, F T, and L M Tierney Jr. “The bedside Sherlock Holmes.” The Western journal of medicine vol. 137,2 (1982): 169-75.
School of Medicine. “Medical Community Loses a Titan With the Passing of the Incomparable Faith Fitzgerald.” US Davis Health News, 6 Mar. 2022, health.ucdavis.edu/news/headlines/medical-community-loses-a-titan-with-the-passing-of-the-incomparable-faith-fitzgerald/2021/12.