2015 Distinguished Achievement Award Winner

Michael C. Fishbein, M.D.

Michael Fishbein

Dr. Michael Fishbein was born May 25, 1946 in Brussels, to holocaust survivors, who with the help of the Belgian people, survived in hiding in the Belgian countryside for all of WWII. In 1949, the family emigrated to Chicago where Michael's mother had relatives. When Michael was 12, and his father was 51, his father had his first myocardial infarction. From then on, cardiovascular disease, in one way or another, has played a major role in Michael's life.

With the help of State of Illinois Scholarships, Michael received his undergraduate and medical school education at the University of Illinois. In medical school, his teacher of congenital heart disease was Dr. Maurice Lev. Michael used one medical school elective to go to the Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen where he participated in a busy autopsy service, and one elective in cardiology at the Mayo Clinic where he had the opportunity to spend time with Dr. Jack Titus on the autopsy service. In part, to escape Chicago winters, he did an internship and residency in pathology at UCLA/Harbor General Hospital (HGH) in Torrance, CA. Because he had an interest in cardiovascular pathology not shared by any of the faculty, Michael inherited most cardiac autopsies and collaborative research projects with the active adult and pediatric cardiologists at HGH. These individuals were very enthusiastic and supportive and urged him to get additional training. Michael was fortunate to be able to secure an elective with Dr. William C. Roberts at the NIH. While at the NIH, he was again fortunate to know and work with outstanding individuals in the field of cardiovascular pathology, namely, Dr. Victor Ferrans, Dr. Max Buja, Dr. Bernadine Bulkley/Healy, and Dr. Barry Maron. He also spent time with Dr. Hugh McAllister at the AFIP where he reviewed the vast collection of congenital hearts, and an elephant's heart as well.

In addition to being a great teacher, mentor, and friend, Dr. Roberts, through his association with Dr. Eugene Braunwald, was instrumental in recruiting Michael to the then Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. In fact, he was the first appointee of the new Pathology Chairman, Dr. Ramzi Cotran, who took a big chance hiring Michael since he was straight out of residency, very inexperienced, and had not even taken pathology board exams when appointed. After 3 exciting, productive years at the Brigham, and the blizzard of '77, Michael and his family returned to Los Angeles. He spent 19 very productive years at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where he was a general anatomic pathologist with a subspecialty interest in cardiovascular pathology. While challenging, practising general pathology exposed him to the full gamut of human disease and a wide array of tools in pathology, such as EM, histochemistry, and immunohistochemistry, that have played a major role in his study of cardiovascular diseases.

In 1997, Michael had the opportunity to move to UCLA, where the anatomic pathology service was more subspecialized. The greater subspecialization, and funding from the Piansky Endowment he received, allowed him more opportunities to pursue research interests in heart disease. From the individuals named above, and brilliant and generous collaborators that are too numerous to name, Michael had exceptional exposure to giants in cardiovascular disease. In his opinion, good fortune, and the generosity of time and effort on the part of his mentors, allowed him to have a fulfilling career in medicine and cardiovascular pathology particularly. Working hard also helped.

Of course, none of his "success" would have been possible without the help of family: devoted parents who sacrificed whatever necessary so he could be educated; his loving and supportive wife of 40 years, Astrid, who took care of most matters while Michael was busy with his career; and two wonderful and accomplished now-grown and married children, Danielle and Gregory, who have been a source of great pleasure and pride. While no one knows what the future holds, Michael's short-term plans are to continue his current activities at UCLA on a part-time basis, and to spend his "free-time" with his new granddaughter, Maxine, as well as to improve his golf game.