Dr. Thomas Fisher
Emergency room physician and author of The Emergency: A Year of Healing and Heartbreak in a Chicago ER
Photo Credit: Jeff Sciortino
About Thomas Fisher
Dr. Thomas Fisher is a board-certified emergency medicine physician at The University of Chicago Medical Center and a Venture Chair at Redesign Health. There, he uses lessons he learned serving Chicago’s South Side to build new companies that improve care for all, especially the poor and people of color. In his powerful and moving lectures, Dr. Fisher speaks on the racial and wealth disparities in our country’s health. He calls for reform that offers a fresh vision of health care as a foundation of social justice.
As an emergency medicine physician at The University of Chicago Medical Center, Dr. Thomas Fisher works in the same South Side community where he was raised. Committed to providing medical care to the Black community, Dr. Fisher experienced firsthand the crushing pandemic and a violent summer, amidst a failing healthcare system. He documented his harrowing experience in his memoir, The Emergency: A Year of Healing and Heartbreak in a Chicago ER. He writes about the limited time and resources to treat incoming patients—for patients who came into the ward, sometimes he only had three minutes to spend with them. In this riveting, pulse-pounding story of a year in the life of an emergency room doctor, Dr. Fisher connects these human stories to the unjust, profit-hungry healthcare system and pleads for structural reform that will better serve the community.
Dr. Thomas Fisher started out his career as an assistant professor at The University of Chicago, where he built community partnerships to improve patient care. From 2010 to 2011, he served as a White House Fellow at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the Obama administration. During his time at the White House, he worked on Affordable Care Act regulations and led the development of the Health and Human Services Action Plan for Reducing Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. He also held multiple leadership roles in health care insurance and delivery.
Dr. Thomas Fisher holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Dartmouth College, a Master of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health, and a medical degree from The University of Chicago. He was the recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar, Crain’s Chicago Business 40 under 40, Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honors Society, and a 2020 Diversity Leadership Alumni Award at The University of Chicago. He is also a Fellow of the Health Innovators Fellowship and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
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The Three-Tiered Pandemic
The emergency room is designed for the most urgent cases, but for the South Side residents of Chicago, it often serves as their primary and immediate access to healthcare. As an ER doctor, Dr. Thomas Fisher usually only has a couple of minutes to process and dispatch these patients; not nearly enough time to discuss the true underlying societal issues at the heart of their health. In this talk, Dr. Fisher reveals intimate stories from what he calls a three-tiered pandemic: COVID-19, homicides, and economic crises. With his unique perspective as both a policy-maker and physician, he delivers a much-needed primer for his fresh vision of healthcare as a foundation of social justice.
Lessons in Improving Care for All
Access to healthcare can mean the difference between life and death, and nowhere is that more clear than in the emergency room. Every day, in every hospital, patients are lost within the labyrinth of our healthcare system. In this accessible talk, Dr. Fisher draws on his experience as an emergency room doctor, a healthcare executive, and a policy-maker to describe what can be done to remedy the fatal flaws in our healthcare system.
Praise for Thomas Fisher
Praise for The Emergency
This book reminds us how permanently interesting our bodies are, especially when they go wrong. Fisher’s account of his days is gripping. . . . His frustration, his outraged intelligence, is palpable on every page. . . . the best account I’ve read about working in a busy hospital during Covid.— The New York Times
With scalpel-like precision and searing patient stories, Thomas Fisher exposes the battlefield of medicine and the scarring—and often fatal—wounds of inequality. The Emergency is a bat call. Health care doesn’t care, inequality kills, and we must do better.— Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, author of What the Eyes Don’t See
A briskly paced, heartfelt, often harrowing year in the life of an ER doctor on Chicago’s historically Black South Side.— San Francisco Chronicle
The Emergency is a doctor’s-eye view of the layered crises afflicting a single Chicago community and the entire nation that surrounds it. By turns brutal and beautiful, this is a tale of life, death, and the people whose efforts often determine which of those two will prevail.— Jelani Cobb, co-editor of The Matter of Black Lives
“Tired of reading about COVID-19? Don’t make the mistake of missing the best book about it to date. The Emergency is Thomas Fisher’s memoir of the first year of the pandemic’s grip on Chicago’s South Side, where he grew up and where he battled the disease, along with every other ailment and injury that reached his emergency room. This is no past-tense memoir but a gripping account of events as they happen. It’s beautifully rendered in the present tense and leavened by a series of letters he composed to, and in honor of, his patients. But this is also a book about our country, a wrenching and tender reflection on an aphorism Fisher invokes: When America catches a cold, black America catches pneumonia. It won’t take you long to read this fast-paced account, but you won’t forget it anytime soon.— Paul Farmer, M.D., author of Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor
Riveting . . . [Fisher] eloquently captures the intensity of the situation . . . and shares heartrending stories of victims. . . . The result is a powerful reckoning with racial injustice and a moving portrait of everyday heroism..— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Dramatic . . . well written and compassionate . . . a persuasive, sympathetic . . . insider’s report on a broken system.— Kirkus Reviews
Books by Thomas Fisher
Media About Thomas Fisher
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- Thomas Fisher travels from Chicago, Illinois
“The Emergency is graphic and gut-wrenching, as it should be. It is an undeniable call for a just health-care system, as it will be.”—Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist