Tribute to Dr. Freddie Fu Unveiled at UPMC Freddie Fu Sports Medicine Center

By: Taylor Andres

A sculpture of the late Dr. Freddie H. Fu was unveiled in a ceremony last week in the lobby of the UPMC Freddie Fu Sports Medicine Center— where the bronze bust will be permanently displayed as a tribute to Dr. Fu’s legacy. The sculpture was funded through donations by colleagues, former fellows and residents and friends of the Fu family.

“I can think of no greater tribute to Dr. Fu, than to have his own bust at the UPMC Freddie Fu Sports Medicine Center. It’s a reminder of a great surgeon, innovator, educator and friend to all who entered this building,” said Dr. William Donaldson, past interim chair of orthopaedic surgery, and longtime orthopaedic spine surgeon at UPMC.

The sculptor of the piece is Parker B. Donaldson, son of Dr. Donaldson, and family friend of the Fus.

“Dr. Fu has been a fixture in my life ever since I could remember,” said Parker Donaldson. “Whenever we were doing the research for what we wanted out of this work, the question became, ‘when do you place Freddie in his prime?’ But then, you would be hard-pressed to find a time when Freddie wasn’t moving some sort of proverbial mountain. What I hope we can all take from the work is a place to gather our own unique experiences we’ve had with him.”

Dr. Freddie Fu was the creator of UPMC’s world-renowned sports medicine program, long-time chairman of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and head team physician for Pitt’s Department of Athletics. He is one of the most recognized and beloved physicians in Pittsburgh, having earned the title as one of the 100 most influential Pittsburghers of the 20th century, from Pittsburgh Magazine in 1999.

“Freddie was the chairman of the department of orthopaedics for 24 years, bringing the department to the top rankings in the U.S., internationally, and also in the UPMC network locally,” said Dr. Volker Musahl, Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania Professor and chief of the division of sports medicine at UPMC. “Freddie was an incredible scientist; he had an innovative mind. He was always one step ahead of anyone else in orthopaedics that ever tried to publish.”

Dr. Fu is internationally acclaimed for his innovative research and teaching, leading to many clinical advancements in sports medicine and orthopaedic care, particularly in treating knee injuries. He founded western Pennsylvania’s first sports medicine program in 1986 which evolved into the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine located at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Largely envisioned and designed by Dr. Fu, the complex combines the resources of a major academic health system with professional and collegiate sports programs, encompassing the training facilities of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pitt Panthers. In 2018, the center was reopened as the UPMC Freddie Fu Sports Medicine Center following a multi-million-dollar renovation and expansion of the facility.

“I don’t have the words to express the gratitude we have for you to even think of having a bust of him here in this facility,” said Gordon Fu, son of Dr. Fu, to the more than 100 colleagues, friends and supporters in attendance at the dedication ceremony. “It was only a few years ago that we were here celebrating the naming of the building, and my family was so happy that day. I’m glad that he was around to see that.”

Dr. Fu expanded and advanced UPMC Sports Medicine into one of the largest, most comprehensive clinical and research programs in the world. The program uniquely places leading multi-specialists under one roof for the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of chronic and acute sports-related and non-sports-related injuries and conditions ranging from ankle sprains to knee ligament tears to concussions.

“Those of us in leadership positions like to believe that we help to shape organizations, but, in reality, very few of us do. Freddie has really helped to shape what UPMC is,” said Dr. Joon Sup Lee, executive vice president of UPMC and president of UPMC Physician Services.

Dr. Fu also played a major role as an instructor and mentor to students at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine impacting thousands of medical students, residents and fellows throughout his career.

“Every student, every resident, every patient has always been uniquely touched by Freddie, and I think that is something that we can all celebrate” said Dr. Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for the Health Sciences at Pitt and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the Pitt School of Medicine.

As an ardent supporter of diversity in medicine, Dr. Fu developed one of the most ethnically and gender-diverse academic and clinical departments in the country. He also is known for his enormous impact on the entire Pittsburgh region as a deeply devoted and enthusiastic community ambassador, actively serving for more than 30 years on the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations and life-enriching initiatives.

“When you look around this room, we are proud of the fact that we are one of the most diverse programs in the country. And we should be,” said Dr. MaCalus Hogan, chair of orthopaedic surgery at UPMC and David Silver Professor Chair in the department of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “If you look around this room at what Freddie has built, where else could you go in the world and see so many individuals with various backgrounds, various perspectives, and all are here for a common good? That speaks to Freddie.”

More information about Dr. Fu’s incredible legacy and impact can be read in his obituary.