College of Medicine celebrates Tillman Scholar, Andrew Fisher
Being a doctor wasn’t always Andrew Fisher’s dream. He didn’t grow up playing “doctor” and he didn’t major in pre-med during undergrad like so many other medical students. In fact, Fisher took a winding road as his path to medical school. But it’s a path of discovery and selfless service that has already improved the lives of many both in and out of the United States Army.
In 1992, Andrew Fisher was working in a low skill, minimum wage job, when a friend bet him he wouldn’t join the Army and become an Army Ranger. So Fisher found an Army recruiter and joined shortly after. Sounds like a pretty simple story, but like all things with Andrew Fisher—there’s more to it.
When he was a child, he watched as his uncle and brother joined the armed forces, and he always thought that he would eventually join too. “I always knew I wanted to serve, it just so happens that I needed a little push to get me there,” he said.
The Army was a perfect fit for him, and it didn’t take long for him to graduate from the Regimental Indoctrination Program and the selection course for the 75th Ranger Regiment.
“I never really performed well in school and I never felt like a standout in anything when I was growing up,” Fisher said. “But when I joined the Army I got a little taste of success. The confidence I gained from graduating the RIP [Ranger Indoctrination Program] helped me a year later in Ranger school and pretty soon I realized I wasn’t a slouch and had something to give back.”
In 1995 he was selected to attend an EMT course and there he found that the science of medicine was not only interesting, but something he could excel in.
“It was a fantastic experience in the emergency room and on my ambulance rotations, I quickly found a great interest in trauma and acute care medicine,” Fisher said. “It changed my whole attitude about life. It just ‘clicked.’”
From there his career in medicine took him from Emergency Medical Services to physician assistant school.
One of Fisher’s goals in becoming a physician is to help improve prehospital combat medicine. During his time on the frontlines for the Army, Fisher saw firsthand the importance of medical improvements in combat zones.
“It makes you want to do so much more—seeing someone, your friend, die,” Fisher said. “It lights a fire in you to make a change, to not only help individuals through medicine, but entire groups of servicemen at the frontlines.”
As a physician assistant in the Army, Fisher has already been involved in improving patient outcomes at the point of injury in the battlefield.
While assigned to a battalion, he began tracking data and learning about ketamine and its use for pain management and as a preventive for PTSD and chronic pain. In 2014 he published a small case series on the battalion’s use of ketamine at the point of injury, which was the first data to be published on ketamine from the point of injury in combat. Since that time he’s been working with physicians from around the Department of Defense (DOD) to not only look at ketamine, but pain management as a whole at the point of injury.
“If we can provide safe and effective pain management at the point of injury, we can help Veterans lead better, more productive lives instead of being scarred by PTSD and chronic pain,” Fisher said.
For the last nine years he has served in the 75th Ranger Regiment. This unit has not suffered a preventable death during conflict since 2001. Meanwhile, the rest of the DOD maintains about a 24 percent preventable death rate. Command emphasis, incorporating medical training during most unit training, and training every Ranger to recognize and treat the three most common causes of preventable death has been the key to the success of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
But the preventable death rate of the DOD is troublesome to Fisher and others. There are several issues that can be identified, but not all issues are present in all units. Therefore, there is not one way to improve the preventable death rate, and teams of physicians, physician assistants and medics work on the problem. But for Fisher, it’s a source of inspiration to become a physician and increase his capacity to help solve the issue.
“That drive to save lives is always pushing me to the next step,” Fisher said. “I always want to know more. I know that as an MD with an excellent medical education I can to take the next step to saving more lives.”
After earning an MD at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, Fisher will return to the Army to continue the work he has already started and take it to new heights.
“I chose A&M because it is steeped in military history and because the A&M College of Medicine is such a supporter of the military,” Fisher said. “Not only were they created to help Veterans, but they actively seek military and other non-traditional students. I declined all other offers and interviews from other medical schools after I was offered a seat at Texas A&M. My mind was set.”
In Fisher’s road to discovering his own calling, he credits his wife, Danielle, as the real reason he’s able to accomplish his goals.
“I couldn’t have done this without her. She encouraged me throughout all the night classes to get my prerequisites, she inspired me to apply and take the MCAT, she’s my driving force,” Fisher said. “The application process is tough, but she pushed me through and we’re doing all this together.”
Leila Diaz, MA, MEd, assistant dean for admissions, said that Fisher is an outstanding addition to the College of Medicine and that the college was happy to be supportive during the application process while Fisher was deployed in Afghanistan.
“He’s a true problem solver. In addition to becoming a wonderful physician, while he is here with us, he is shaping his class so that everyone’s learning is enhanced—this is what produces excellence.”