A family passion for nursing

Charles Edward Fisher and his wife, Rosa Lee Fisher, had five children—two sons and three daughters. Theirs was an African-American family in the community of Freemanville, near Atmore, Alabama, in the mid-20th century. Given the times, they were aware of racial barriers to their children's opportunities. However, that did not prevent the Fishers from having high expectations for their children and encouraging them to be the best they could be. Those expectations included that their children would graduate from high school and then pursue higher education. In their parents, the Fisher children had role models for working hard. Their dad worked as a janitor and later in production in a chemical plant. Their mom raised flowers for a plant-and-flower nursery.

Parental encouragement paid off. Four of the five Fisher children became college graduates and the fifth a trade school graduate.

For the Fisher daughters—Sarah, Cynthia and Eleanor—seeds also were planted for pursuing a nursing career. Their mom, Rosa, had wanted to become a nurse. But, as eldest daughter Sarah put it, "time and opportunity were not on our mother's side."

All three Fisher daughters would become nurses and would earn a nursing education grounded at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. As time went on, Rosa Lee Fisher would smile and say, "with all three of my daughters in nursing, if I get sick and need a nurse, I should be covered on all three shifts!"


Photo of Sarah Louise Fisher

In September 1965, Sarah Louise Fisher entered the baccalaureate program at what today is known as the UAB School of Nursing. The School then was based in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and, midway through Sarah's studies, moved to its current Birmingham home as part of what would come to be UAB. Sarah was the first African-American student to be accepted to the School and, in 1969, the School's first African-American graduate.

She later earned her master's in nursing, an education specialist certificate and a PhD. All were from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, a city where she and her husband, Joe Giles, lived and reared their family. One of their three children, their son, is a nurse.

For Dr. Sarah Fisher Giles, innovation became a way of life. She was among the first nursing faculty at Wayne County Community College in Detroit and was innovative with curricula to educate nursing students. After retiring from a long career there, she became the founding director of a nursing education department for South University in Novi, Michigan. She also was in the Army Reserves and became a full colonel. In 2001, she was in the first group of distinguished nurses inducted into the Alabama Nursing Hall of Fame.

"I am pleased that I was able to achieve my goals," she said. "My baccalaureate nursing education from the UAB School of Nursing provided me with a strong foundation."

She now lives in Georgia and spends her time volunteering to care for people in her church and in the community.


Cynthia Fisher Frazier is the middle of the Fisher daughters. Like her sisters, she has a life strongly grounded in nursing. She holds three degrees from UAB—a bachelor's in nursing, a master's in nursing, and a master's in occupational education.

Photo of Cynthia Fisher Frazier

For more than 30 years, she worked at the Birmingham Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center and rose to positions of leadership. She worked as a nurse manager for four areas—dialysis, IV therapy/phlebotomy, medical specialty clinics and chemotherapy. Her nursing leadership has attracted accolades, including an Excellence in Nursing Award from B-Metro Magazine. The impact of her role modeling is apparent in her own family; one of her two daughters is a nurse.

Cynthia Fisher Frazier recalled being exposed to nursing ideals of high-quality care while she was a UAB baccalaureate and master’s nursing student.

“As a student at the UAB School of Nursing, I saw that the School’s standards were high and that the School did not compromise on those standards.”

Nursing ideals she came to know at UAB continue to guide her today.

"In regard to patient care, through the years I have believed in not compromising values and principles, and in maintaining that expected standard of care in whatever area of nursing you are delivering for patients," she said. "For me, I believe that understanding and adhering to a high standard of care go back to what I learned at the UAB School of Nursing."

That dedication to care for patients continued into retirement. When the need arose during the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to go back to work to help administer vaccines to veterans.


The youngest Fisher sister, Eleanor Fisher, pursued an education that led her to a rewarding career in nurse anesthesia.

Photo of Eleanor Fisher

Typical of the Fisher siblings’ quest for higher education, Eleanor built a strong educational base. She earned baccalaureate and master's degrees from the UAB School of Nursing. From the UAB School of Health Professions, where the program was formerly housed, she received education in nurse anesthesia.

Eleanor Fisher makes her home in the Birmingham area. But, for this retired contract nurse anesthetist, her work took her into hospital operating rooms in towns and cities outside the area.

She speaks of lessons learned in nursing school. "As a student at the UAB School of Nursing, I learned from the strong emphasis on delivering quality care and being an advocate for your patients. I took those lessons with me."

When she was involved in putting a patient under sedation for a procedure, Eleanor said she viewed herself as an advocate for making sure the patient receives the best quality of anesthesia services. She approaches her patients with nurturing akin to what she herself received from her own parents and in turn gives to her son.

"I treat each patient as an individual," she said. "For example, if my patient is a baby, I want that baby's parents to know that I will treat their baby as though it was my own being put to sleep for surgery."

Like her sister, she also jumped at the opportunity to do her part during the pandemic. She helps in the process of administering COVID vaccines for children and adults.

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