Robert Alan Keisman, 89, family doctor and cardiologist in Philly

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Robert Alan Keisman, 89, formerly of Philadelphia, an internist and cardiologist for more than six decades, died Tuesday, July 11, of a degenerative brain disease at his home in Reston, Va.

Camera icon Courtesy of the family

Robert Alan Keisman

Dr. Keisman lived and worked in Philadelphia and the suburbs before moving in 2013 to Reston to be near his daughters.

An old-fashioned family doctor, he made house calls long after the custom was a distant memory. He maintained a solo medical practice in Collingdale, Delaware County, then in East Falls, and finally at his home in Brewerytown.

He also directed medical clinics attached to various corporations in the region. “This was so he could maintain his independence,” said his daughter, Julie Keisman Miller. He was licensed to practice medicine in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Illinois – the latter because he once thought of moving to Chicago.

Born in New York, Dr. Keisman was a precocious student. He graduated from Grace Church School in Manhattan, and from Columbia University in 1945, as a Phi Beta Kappa student, at 17.

His parents, Dr. Murray Keisman and Maria Burova Keisman, had emigrated to New York City from Prague in the 1920s.

He served in the Navy in 1945, then moved to Philadelphia to study at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine. He graduated in 1950 and completed his residency there, becoming board-certified in internal medicine, and later in cardiology.

Starting in the early 1980s and continuing until 2012, when he retired, Dr. Keisman was employed on a contractual basis as chief medical advisor to the Social Security Administration in Philadelphia.

Hal Davison, a colleague there, described him as among the most memorable people he had ever met.

“Before he specialized in cardiology, he was my family doctor,” Davison said. “He was an amazing intellectual and a consummate physician. He had a calm, reassuring style and captivating presence. His patience and courtesy made him a role model for all of us. I was always amazed at his detailed and scholarly case analyses.

“He must have worked 25 hours a day because he was a perfectionist who could produce an incredible amount of work. He had a dry wit that made him fascinating to listen to. I loved his stories of being a Penn medical student long ago.”

A family friend, Margaret A. Weir, said: “His life of service to others through his medical work helped countless numbers of people over many years. He had high ethical standards of medical practice and held the respect of his colleagues and friends.”

During a stint as the company doctor for Penn Mutual Life Insurance in 1960, Dr. Keisman met Robin Hathaway, a writer who ran the company magazine. They immediately hit it off, discovering shared interests in Philadelphia history, Alfred Hitchcock movies, and Peanuts cartoons. His first gift to her was a plastic Snoopy in a fancy gift box.

They were married on Dec. 2, 1961, beginning “a long and devoted partnership,” the family wrote in an appreciation.

In the 1960s and 70s, the couple ran a magazine publishing and public relations company called Barnhouse Press from their home in Media. They reared two daughters, both of whom followed in their father’s footsteps as Columbia University graduates.

The Keismans also collaborated on a photography business and a series of Philadelphia-based mystery novels about a fictional cardiologist named Dr. Andrew Fenimore. While his wife did the writing, Dr. Keisman served as the model for the protagonist.

“Bob was the inspiration, medical consultant, and always the first-draft editor,” his family wrote.

From 1999 until 2012, the Keismans divided their time among their homes in the Museum section of Philadelphia, an apartment in Manhattan, and Gumtree, their little “vacation shack,” as Dr. Keisman called it, in Bayside, near Greenwich, N.J. Robin Keisman died in February 2013.

In addition to his daughter, he survived by another daughter, Anne Keisman Cissel, and four grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, July 21, at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, 5720 Ridge Ave., Philadelphia. Interment will follow in the church cemetery.

Memorial donations may be made to the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, 1901 Vine St., Suite 111; Philadelphia, Pa.19103, or via

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