From Bonn to the ball
German surgeon named second SMMSH living legend
STANDISH — The career of Dr. Hans Fischer will be celebrated during the second annual St. Mary’s of Michigan Standish Hospital (SMMSH) Living Legends Ball on Feb. 28.
Fischer, 79, says he studied to be a doctor in Rostock and Bonn, Germany, and received his medical degree from the Bonn Universal Medical School in 1956. Soon after, Fischer found himself filling an internship in Ventnor City, NJ.
“They sponsored internships for German physicians,” Fischer said. “I took them up on that adventure.”
The Germany native was provided room and board, passage and a $75 stipend for the one-year internship and upon his return to Germany in 1957; he says his time in America stuck in his mind.
“I considered the training during my internship excellent. I found it very structured and very good. … It was a tremendous experience for me,” Fischer said. “The general friendliness I came into contact with, this was something that in my time in Germany, that was unheard of.
“The thought germinated slowly that ‘my gosh, maybe I should come back (to the U.S.).’”
However, Fischer says the law called for him to remain outside the states for two years before returning. On top of that, his father, who was a dentist in Bonn for many years, was now practicing in East Germany; an area Fischer wasn’t too familiar with, pushing him even more towards another trip across the Atlantic.
“I didn’t come back to a home,” he said, adding if he could have worked and lived in West Germany, he may not have returned to America.
To occupy the two years in his homeland, he practiced medicine at a place that would continue to prepare him for a career in the U.S. – the U.S. Air Force Base in Rammstein.
“When I decided to come back, I knew that the armed forces hospitals in Germany were hiring German doctors,” he said. “I wanted to not lose my language skills. I wanted to stay in the American medical system.”
In 1959, Fischer says he was allowed back in the states and worked at Bon Secours Hospital in Methuen, Mass., but he needed some help getting back.
“To come back as a permanent resident, I had to be sponsored,” Fischer said, adding Fred and Sarah Lombardo from New Jersey, whom he came into contact with during his internship, supported him as sponsors – an act for which he is still grateful today. “They opened their home. … I could have been a total failure, I could have gotten them in trouble.”
After working in Massachusetts for a year, Fischer received a residency at Harper Hospital in Detroit.
“I applied to three hospitals. Did I know any of them? Of course not,” Fischer said, adding Harper was the first to reply to his application, via telegram, nonetheless. He also added that after accepting the Harper job, he received letters from the other two hospitals accepting him for a position. “There are certain things where fate takes over.”
And it must have been fate, since while working in Harper Hospital, Fischer met his wife, Inge, an exchange nurse from Denmark. In 1964, upon completing a residency at Harper, he also got word of the development of a hospital in Standish that would one day lead to him being dubbed a living legend.
Fischer says he was welcome with open arms when he arrived in Northern Michigan in 1964.
“The Chamber of Commerce here in Standish and all the V.I.P.’s were very interested in me coming up because so far they had never had a surgeon in town. They really put out the red carpet,” he said. “I figured raising a family here in Standish was better than raising a family in Detroit.”
Fischer, according to a biography provided by SMMSH, officially became Standish’s first board-certified surgeon in 1967. He served the Standish community for 32 years before retiring in 1998.
The living legends ball honoring Dr. Fischer begins at 6 p.m. at Huron Breeze Golf and Country Club in AuGres. For more information, call 989-846-3446.
All proceeds from the ball will go towards funding an ECG Machine for SMMSH Respiratory Therapy Department.