John Fieselmann, Internal Medicine

Photo by Tom Jorgensen.

John Fieselmann is following in his father’s footsteps.

Fieselmann, professor of internal medicine in the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and director of clinical outreach services at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and his father, George F. Fieselmann, both attended undergraduate and medical school at the University of Iowa. The younger Fieselmann stayed in Iowa City to do his residency and pulmonary fellowship and has been on the staff of UI Hospitals and Clinics since 1988.

More literally, he’s following the footsteps of his father, keeping track of the condition of the same trees and other flora. “The first thing he asked me when I became a student here—the very first thing—was whether the hemlock trees were still on the north side of General Hospital,” Fieselmann says. “I had no idea—I had to look it up and go check.”

Fieselmann recently sat down with fyi to discuss his love of his work at UI Hospitals and Clinics, of trees, and how the two really do come together.

What is the best part of your job at UI Hospitals and Clinics?
I like teaching and caring for patients; I don’t think I can separate the two. When you add teaching to patient care, it does add extra time to what you’re doing. My family has probably sacrificed because of the demands on my time. I try to find a good balance between work and family. I feel like I’ve really been fortunate with my career and that I’m now able to spend more time with my family.

A few of my favorite things…

Pasta and turkey

Italian wine from Montalcino: actually, all wines from Italy

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Iowa Hawkeyes

Inherit the Wind

Working at UI Hospitals and Clinics as a pulmonary specialist, I have enjoyed developing a relationship with my patients. I daily learn from my patients and from my students and therefore live a more fulfilled life.

How did you develop your knowledge about trees?
Both my father and my wife are knowledgeable about plants and trees. My father would talk about taking breaks in class and walking toward the river. As I went through my years as a student he would always ask if certain trees were still there. I had to go and do some research in order to answer him. I came to love the walks and study of the trees along the trail, and started talking to the hospital groundskeeper to learn more. I have a map of the area surrounding the Quad Ravine, and every tree is labeled.

How has your interest in trees affected your medical career?
I’m interested as an internist in differential diagnoses, so I approach my interest in trees in much the same way. I have several tree books at home, so I study those and look to see what makes each tree unique. Iowa City is blessed with many oak trees. The oak leaves with finely pointed lobes are the red, black, and pin oak trees. You can tell the white and burr oak because the leaves are deeply cut into round-ended lobes.

To get started you have to find the right people and the right information. I tracked down five pages that catalog the trees and shrubs that are located in the Quad Ravine.

I love teaching, and whenever there’s an opportunity I do like to give talks on identifying evergreens and oaks, using the differential diagnosis approach. To identify a specific tree, you have to really look and examine it closely, focusing on the leaves or needles, bark, acorns or cones, and shape.