Leadership

Dr. Fiser brought a vision as he assumed his new role, which included bringing “National Recognition” to Arkansas Children’s Hospital and developing a training program which would graduate enough pediatricians to provide high quality medical care for all children of Arkansas.  He is remembered as a person of high energy, persuasion, and as a visionary.  Dr. J.B. Norton, one of Dr. Fiser’s first faculty recruits who arrived in 1975, recalled Dr. Fiser telling him: “I want to build a children’s hospital and I want to train pediatricians and I want to put a pediatrician in every town in Arkansas.  I want you to help me recruit the best faculty I can recruit in various subspecialties.  I want to train general pediatricians in a children’s hospital that will provide the highest technical and professional quality of care that we can so that, when these young men and women go out to small towns in Arkansas, they will know when they’ve got a really sick kid they can send it back to Little Rock and they will know that child will get the best possible care. … and that is what we did.”

Bob encouraged us to do that in a way that was energetic, aggressive, assertive, and fun.”  (Add J.B. Norton Audio here) Dr. Rhonda Dick, a student and pediatric resident under Dr. Fiser, described his style as a leader; “He was a very strong leader, but he was also very down to earth. He was the type to be just as able to talk to the medical students as to the other attendings, very involved, very charismatic, very sure of himself, just someone we all looked up to and respected, but we felt comfortable talking to him, laughing with him. ‘Captain Bob-’ that is what we called him.  “Captain Bob and the Starship Pediatrics” is what we said when I was a resident.”  (Add Rhonda Dick Audio here) Dr. Richard Jacobs, who was a student and pediatric resident under Dr. Fiser, who later became Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics in 2005, described Dr. Fiser’s style and approach to recruiting.  “Dr. Fiser was a visionary, dreamer, entrepreneur, and a true leader.  Dr. Fiser could sell fur coats in a dessert!  I mean he was a cheerleader and a salesman.  I ran into Dr. Fiser during the first year of my fellowship at the Society for Pediatric Research meeting.  I was presenting a platform presentation of my research.  He came and sat in the front row and smiled during my entire presentation.  Afterwards he came up and asked how things were going.  He said, “When you finish I want you to go out and get all the job offers you can and then call me because I am going to beat every one of them.  You’re coming back to be on the faculty with me.” (Add Jacobs audio here) And Dr. Jacobs did join the faculty of the Department of Pediatrics in 1983 when he completed his fellowship.

Dr. Fiser focused on recruiting the best of the residents who trained at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.  Dr. Jacobs commented: “Of my residency group and of UAMS medical students who trained in pediatrics elsewhere, the number of people who came back after their specialty training is amazing and adds to the ‘legend’ of Dr. Fiser.  These included Drs. Becky Rogers and Bonnie Taylor in Neonatology, Eileen Ellis in Nephrology, Debra Fiser in Critical Care, Ernie Kiel in Cardiology, and Larry Simmons in General Pediatrics among many others.”  Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the first female graduate of UAMS, longtime faculty member of the Department of Pediatrics of UAMS who was later named Surgeon General under President Bill Clinton, made this comment about Dr. Fiser.  “I think the best thing that ever happened to the Department of Pediatrics back then was Bob Fiser.  He was smart, visionary, aggressive, probably took some risks that he shouldn’t have taken.  But he did it in the interest of children and for the state of Arkansas to make things better and I am very proud of what he did.  Dr. Fiser was a real mover and shaker in changing the culture of the Department of Pediatrics; he recruited a lot of great people to really make better tertiary care.” (add elders audio here)