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An Open Letter to the Community of Orthopaedic Professionals: In Remembrance of a Giant in Our Field, Dr. Freddie Fu

On our individual career paths, we have all in some way been privileged by the example and inspiration of the best and brightest in our field. A very few of those are deservedly recognized as pioneers and visionaries. Most rare are those whose impact on the upward trajectory of Orthopaedics is so great that they rise in collective esteem to be considered enduring giants of our profession.

We are now joined in mourning the passing last Friday of the giant Freddie H. Fu, MD, DSci (Hon), Distinguished Service Professor, David Silver Professor and Chair the UPMC Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, an Honorary Member of the HSS Alumni Association, and unparalleled champion of our profession. Born in Hong Kong, Dr. Fu founded Western Pennsylvania’s first sports medicine program in 1986 in a small suite near the University of Pittsburgh main campus. Over the years he repaired the knees of thousands of patients, and published papers that were collectively cited more than 60,000 times by his peers. The generous philanthropy of Dr. Fu and his wife Hilda has had a lasting impact on the lives of people from all walks of life.

Dr. Freddie Fu

But his greatest legacy is in his iconic impact as teacher and mentor to thousands of Orthopaedic surgeons, including many members of the HSS Medical Staff, Alumni, and colleagues everywhere.

Remembrances and tributes will flow from around the world in the days and weeks to come, but below are some from current members of the HSS Medical Staff.

In gratitude for and honor of the life and inspiration of Dr. Freddie Fu,

Bryan Kelly, MD
Surgeon-in-Chief and Medical Director

Jose A. Rodriguez, MD
Director, Alumni Affairs

Answorth Allen, MD

We have lost a colleague, teacher, mentor and friend. One of the most colorful individuals ever in the medical profession. He was friendly, approachable, funny, and kind. He was a visionary who was prescient, always looking beyond the horizon. He was a leader, universally inclusive who championed diversity and disseminated knowledge globally. 

He never forgot a face, a patient's name and all the members in a family. 

His favorite greeting: "How are you, how is your family?"

The experience with Freddie had a profound effect on the individuals who passed through Pittsburgh. 

Andy Pearle, MD

Even though I did not train at Pitt, Freddie Fu had an outsized influence on my career. Freddie never forgot a name or a face and took a deep interest in everyone he met. So even after simply interviewing for fellowship with Freddie, I immediately became his lifelong mentee and colleague. Freddie seemed to be at every academic conference and was a dominant voice in the advancement of ACL surgery. By giving me encouragement after my talks and even quoting some of my studies, Freddie nurtured my academic career, elevating me even when my data was at odds with his findings. After one of my presentations at the ACL study group, Freddie pulled me aside and told me he was proud of me. This small gesture of recognition from such a giant in our field validated all the unappreciated toil associated with clinical and basic science research, and gave me the confidence and drive to continue along this path. For Freddie, research and advancement and the pursuit of progress in sports medicine was a passion. Freddie challenged us all to do better for our patients and inspired us all to fulfill this mission collectively. Through force of personality, Freddie brought us all along on this journey with him allowing each of us to serve a role.

I was fortunate enough to be included in Freddie’s nearly daily emails which he sent to friends, mentees, and colleagues. He would send press clippings to celebrate the accomplishments of colleagues, updates on what was happening at University of Pittsburgh or in the community, and important articles that impact orthopedics. When there were no work-related announcements to be made, Freddie would send a picture of nature or a wonderous moment with a small blurb of sage commentary – a picture of a butterfly, a historical picture of the steel mills along the Monongahela River, or a series of pictures of the harvest moon over downtown Pittsburgh. As I think about these emails, I realize that Freddie was again leading us on a magnificent, shared journey; not just to advance orthopedics but to appreciate, honor, and respect all the people, creatures, and forces that make up our world.

The sports medicine community has lost one of our true leaders and pioneers, a shining light that has touched us all. Thank you, Freddie, for all you did for orthopedics and sports medicine, and for all the careers that you nurtured and all the lives that you improved.

Anil Ranawat, MD

Freddie Fu was a man ahead of his time. He broke down gender, racial and cultural barriers well before it was en vogue. He took on the establishment and then reformed it and made it better. He was truly a global influence. He was a tireless worker, researcher, teacher, surgeon, team physician, friend, philanthropist, inventor and family man. He was so confident in himself that he built the people around him to levels and accolades that equal him, but no one could equal Freddie or his heart. I will forever miss him. He was an incredible influence on me and made me a better man, leader and surgeon that I am today. 

Russ Warren, MD

A tremendous loss to our field. I had the privilege of knowing and working with Freddie over the years. A wonderful mentor to so many. His enthusiasm for orthopedics, sports medicine and ACL surgery will be remembered by all. A true friend, with whom I could always talk and debate especially about ACL surgery. He has created a wonderful Pitt orthopedic program. One of the best. We will all miss him and his wonderful smile.

Thomas Wickiewicz, MD

The Orthopaedic community, especially the Sports Medicine field, has lost a leader, colleague, and mentor with the passing of Dr Freddie Fu.

Personally, my wife Cathy and I have lost a friend of over thirty years.

My condolences to his wife, Hilda, and children, and extended family.