If you were born at Kaiser Permanente’s Panorama City Medical Center between 1962 and 1998, it is very likely that Arthur Fleisher, MD, was the delivery-room doctor. In fact, Dr. Fleisher recalls that he delivered all but a handful of babies born at the hospital up until 1998, thus bringing many generations of Kaiser Permanente members into the world.
Dr. Fleisher completed his medical training at the University of Miami and initially came to California to complete an internship at Los Angeles County Hospital. Around the same time, Kaiser Permanente was recruiting doctors from around the country and pitched the idea that possible recruits “wouldn’t have to worry about staff, [but just about] practicing medicine.” This prompted the Fleisher family to make a permanent move to Southern California.
When Panorama City Medical Center opened in September 1962, Dr. Fleisher was one of the first physicians hired, and one of only four in the Ob-Gyn Department. He notes that the medical center was considered especially innovative because of the circular design of the hospital floors, which were called “binoculars” by valley residents in the 1960s. TIME Magazine interviewed Kaiser Permanente staff and wrote a piece on this new hospital.
Kaiser Permanente proved itself to be a great place to work, for many reasons. He greatly enjoyed working in a network with other providers, as part of a system that treated patients for anything so they didn’t have to drive to multiple locations for consults. “We are business-minded. I’m glad someone came up with preventive care at the least cost. This is a win/win situation for everyone,” Dr. Fleisher says. Additionally, he recalls that when his four kids had something special going on, his schedule allowed for him to be present at these important events.
Dr. Fleisher estimates that he delivered around 5,000 babies over the course of his career. One story is particularly memorable: one of his patients was a young woman who desperately wanted to have a child after experiencing five miscarriages. The physician told her, “Let’s make sure you have a baby.” After an exam, he discovered that she had torn her cervix with her first pregnancy, so he repaired the tear with one stitch. The patient was able to carry and deliver her first and only child, naming him “Arturo” after Dr. Fleisher. Eighteen years later, Dr. Fleisher ran into his patient at Kmart, where she informed him that Arturo had recently graduated from high school.
Today, Dr. Fleisher is very active at the same medical center, where he is occasionally called in to assist on cases. He has also been a member of the Patient Advisory Council for the past two years, as he is interested in hearing patient perspectives to ensure they receive the best care and feel valued. And he is also one of the founding volunteer physicians for the non-profit group, Meet Each Need with Dignity. One day a week, he drives a truck for MEND, which aims to help women living in poverty. In addition, he holds an ob-gyn clinic for MEND clients twice a month. Women who are unable to pay are never turned away.
In order to thrive, Dr. Fleisher and his wife go on 2-mile walks five mornings a week and keep mentally active by working with MEND and participating in the community. In the spirit of Kaiser Permanente’s 70th anniversary, Dr. Fleisher offers this last thought: “Kaiser Permanente is a great way and THE only intelligent way to practice medicine.”