Dorothy M. Zellner Papers, 1960-1979, 1983

Biography/History

Robert P. Fischelis had a long, productive, and diverse career in many areas of pharmacy--retail, manufacturing and hospital pharmacy, pharmaceutical journalism, education, research and survey work, and administrative and organizational work. He was also a consultant for governmental agencies; a leader in association activities, pharmaceutical legislation, and regulatory work, and a prolific writer and editor. He had wide contacts and experience and represented the profession of pharmacy effectively in allied fields, such as public policy, medicine and public health, the social aspects of medical care and welfare.

Fischelis was born in Philadelphia on August 16, 1891. His parents were from Germany, and his father Philipp, a medical doctor, taught at Temple University School of Dentistry. After graduating from Wyoming Grammar School (1905) and Northeast High School (1908), Robert became an apprentice in the pharmacy of James Huston. In 1910 he enrolled in the Department of Pharmacy of the Medico-Chirurgical College (Medico-Chi), while continuing to work in area pharmacies and later as a lecturer. He earned Ph.G. (1911), Ph.C. (1912), and Phar.D. (1913) degrees, and also took night courses at Temple University to obtain a B.S. in Chemistry (1912).

While continuing his studies, in 1916 he joined the H.K. Mulford Company, pharmaceutical manufacturers, where he prepared product literature and disseminated product information. In 1918 he received a Pharm.M. degree from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science (PCPS), with which Medico-Chi had merged.

He resigned from Mulford in 1918 to enter the Army Chemical Warfare Service, Gas Defense Division, serving only a few months before the war ended. After the war he became a pharmaceutical and chemical consultant, specializing in preparation of literature and sales promotion. After moving to New York in 1920, he did similar work for the Heyden Chemical Company (1920-1922), Merrell Company (1920-1926), Matos (1920-1929), and Maltbie Company (1926-1944). In June 1920 he also became a part of the editorial staff of the Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, a publication of the American Chemical Society. He became managing editor of the News Edition of that publication when it was established in 1922, a post he held until 1927.

From 1921 to 1925 Fischelis was dean and professor of pharmacy at the New Jersey College of Pharmacy at Newark. After one year there he gave up his New York office, spending full time developing the college, which had not been previously recognized outside New Jersey. He worked to upgrade curriculum, staff and facilities. During that time, the number of students grew, the College began to receive official recognition, and was accepted as a member of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. He was instrumental in raising funds and began negotiations for affiliation with Rutgers. He resigned in 1925 because of increasing frustration and disagreements with the administration over the need for more facilities, faculty and a larger endowment.

After several months of ill health, he resumed his consulting practice and editorial duties. In 1926 he accepted the executive secretaryship of the New Jersey State Board of Pharmacy, Trenton. This intensified his interest in regulation of the drug field. He later added the duties of chief chemist of the Board. He also held posts representing pharmacy on numerous New Jersey agencies, commissions, conferences and boards, and was a cooperating state official with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

In 1941 his stature in the area of pharmacy in medical care earned him an appointment to organize and head the Drugs, Chemicals and Health Supplies Branch of the War Production Board's Office of Civilian Requirements in Washington, D.C. In September 1944, he finally resigned from the Board of Pharmacy to become the fulltime director when the branch became a division. In 1945, he was commissioned as senior pharmacist in the U.S. Public Health Service Reserve and was later promoted to the rank of pharmacist director (Colonel). At the request of the Surgeon General, he headed a survey of pharmacists. The following year he was appointed pharmacy advisor to the U.S. delegation to the International Health Conference, which formulated the constitution creating the World Health Organization. Later in his career, he held consulting or service roles with regard to pharmacy matters in every branch of the armed forces, the U.S. Public Health Service, the FDA and other governmental agencies.

His election in 1945 as executive secretary and general manager of the American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA) culminated more than three decades of activity and leadership in the organization. After first receiving a membership as a school prize in 1911, he had served on many committees, on the council from 1923 to 1926 and 1933 to 1962, council chairman since 1941, and president 1934-1935. During his fifteen years as executive secretary, he made the association a leader in pharmacy. Because he was instrumental promoting extensive cooperation with government agencies in the field of health and welfare, the APhA was consulted more often on policy and legislative matters. He further enhanced his already wide contacts and experience in allied fields of cooperation on public health projects, and was an influential representative for pharmacy. His longstanding interest in the welfare of pharmacists in government and military service continued during this period.

Within the APhA itself, he was instrumental in establishing the Division of Hospital Pharmacy. He was for most of his tenure with the APhA the editor or editorial director of the Journal of the APhA, Practical Pharmacy Edition (JAPhA PPE), and wrote two regular columns, “Straight from Headquarters” and “Typical Days”. He actively promoted a headquarters building program, and was involved in the observance of the Centennial of the APhA in 1952. He worked to increase the membership and develop local and student branches. He was also a consultant to the director of the Pharmaceutical Survey, which was conducted from 1946-1949.

Fischelis retired from his APhA post in 1959, resuming his consulting activities to a number of educational, institutional, governmental and professional agencies. Among the latter were HEW's Bureau of Public Assistance, Bureau of Family Services, and Welfare Administration, with which he helped develop pharmacy standards for the guidance of state welfare agencies in the administration of their programs of medical care in public assistance.

After several years of consulting, writing, and organizational work, Fischelis accepted appointment in 1963 as Dean of the School of Pharmacy of Ohio Northern University, whose accreditation was threatened. As in New Jersey, he was instrumental in revitalizing the college--raising funds, upgrading the faculty, and establishing a building program. His task completed, in 1966 he became Dean Emeritus. He maintained an office at ONU, however, and continued his interest in pharmacy affairs until his death.

In addition to his main career positions, Robert Fischelis actually carried on several concurrent careers throughout his life as pharmaceutical educator; journalist, editor and speaker; legislative and regulatory officer, consultant and advisor; organization administrator, and officer and representative of the profession of pharmacy.

In addition to his positions as dean and professor of pharmacy at New Jersey College of Pharmacy and ONU, Fischelis continued to teach. His teaching began while taking graduate courses when he was appointed an instructor at Medico-Chi in 1912. Even after moving to New York in 1914, he made weekly trips to Philadelphia to lecture. While at Mulford, he began lecturing at PCPS and continued until 1926. In Washington, D.C., during his entire tenure as APhA secretary, he was a special lecturer at George Washington University College of Pharmacy.

Fischelis was a prolific writer, editor and speaker. He started writing freelance articles and news reports for pharmaceutical journals while still in school, and remained a frequent contributor throughout his life. In 1914 he became assistant editor of The Druggists' Circular in New York. In addition in 1916 as secretary of the Pennsylvania Pharmaceutical Association, he founded and edited the Pennsylvania Pharmacist, and also wrote a chapter on pharmacy and government service for Remington's Practice of Pharmacy. In 1926 when he became secretary of the New Jersey Pharmaceutical Association, he edited the New Jersey Pharmacist from 1927 to 1930 and again from 1935 to 1946.

Early in his career, Fischelis had become interested in the social aspects of medical care and the role of the pharmacist in public health and welfare. From 1928 to 1933 he was the pharmacist member of the research staff of the Committee on the Costs of Medical Care. The pharmacy study was published in 1922 as The Costs of Medicine, co-authored by Fischelis and C.R. Rorem. This led to his contribution of a chapter on the drug industry in the American Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences and to contributions about the costs of medical care in other publications. He contributed a monograph on drug control to Nelson's Loose Leaf Medicine and a chapter on the medical materials industry to the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, and he co-authored with H.V. Arny The Principles of Pharmacy. In the 1960s Fischelis wrote a series of columns for Western Pharmacy on the Kefauver hearings on the drug industry anti-trust act, at which he also testified.

Throughout his life Fischelis remained interested in legislation concerning pharmacy, and besides his formal position as secretary of the New Jersey Board of Pharmacy, he was an active participant on state and federal levels when the FDA and NRA food and drug laws were modernized and anti-trust investigations conducted.

Throughout his career Fischelis was a tireless worker and leader who held positions in numerous scientific and professional organizations and associations. Besides the APhA, he was involved early in his career with the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Pharmaceutical Associations (PPhA, NJPhA). Between 1959 and 1963 he took on especially active roles in such organizations as the National Drug Trade Conference, the Friends of Historical Pharmacy, the Metric Association, and the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy. As one of the APhA representatives to the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education (ACPE), he also travelled to colleges for accreditation examination visits.

Fischelis promoted the idea of a unified voice for pharmacy, advocating relationships between organizations with joint conferences, committees and councils in the pharmaceutical field itself and with other health-related organizations, including the National Association of Retail Druggists, the American Public Health Association, the American Medical Association, the National Drug Trade Conference, the Drug Trade Bureau of Public Information, and the Pharmaceutical Syllabus Committee.

Among his numerous honors were the Remington Medal, the Lascoff Award, the American Druggist Man of the Year Award, and the Whitney Award. He was awarded an honorary Pharm.D. degree from the University of Connecticut, Sc.D. degrees from Rutgers University and PCPS, and distinguished alumnus awards from PCPS and Temple University. He was a member of Rho Chi pharmacy honor society, Phi Lambda Upsilon chemistry honor society, Kappa Psi, and Beta Phi Sigma.

Fischelis married Juanita Celestine Deer in 1919. They had no children. They established the Fischelis Fund at the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy to carry out research projects and publications concerning the issues of American pharmacy, and left the bulk of their estate to the Fischelis Fund. Fischelis died on October 14, 1981, and his wife died in February 7, 1983.