Pittsburgh mourns the passing of Dr. Freddie Fu

PITTSBURGH — Dr. Freddie Fu Ho-Keung, a world-renowned UPMC doctor who is credited with saving the career of former Manchester United superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic and served as team physician for Pitt’s Department of Athletics and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, died Friday, Sept. 24 surrounded by his loving family.

Dr. Fu was one of the most recognized and beloved physicians in Pittsburgh and is acclaimed worldwide for his innovative research and teaching, leading to many clinical advancements in sports medicine and orthpaedic care, particularly in treating knee injuries.

Throughout his life and career, Dr. Fu worked passionately to always set the bar higher for his local, national and international medical/surgical colleagues, thousands of medical students, surgical residents and fellows who came to Pittsburgh to learn from the best.

He set the bar higher most of all for his tens of thousands of patients – elite, professional, Olympic and amateur athletes from around the globe as well as non-athletes from around the corner who sought clinical care from the best. As an ardent proponent and 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 non-profit organizations and life-enriching initiatives.

Fu, 71, a native of Hong Kong who came to the states in the 1970s for college and lived in Pittsburgh for nearly 50 years.Dr. Fu is survived by his wife of 47 years, Hilda Pang Fu, who shares her husband’s enduring community commitment, often witnessed partnering with him as well as leading her own projects. A proud and doting father and grandfather, Dr. Fu is survived also by his daughter, Joyce Lok-See Fu (and husband, Chad Martin); son, Gordon Ka-Hong Fu (and wife, Ding Li); five grandchildren: Ludivine Ling-Yun Fu Martin, Alexander Zee-Yun Fu Martin, Axel Wei-Yun Fu Martin, Kendrick Kai Cheng Fu, and Kasen Kai Sheng Fu; his mother, Mabel Foo; sisters Susan Lam and Jeanette Maeba; and brothers Frank Fu and Nigel Fu.

He was preceded in death by his father, Ying Foo.

“Dr. Fu led a remarkable life that was dedicated to helping and healing others,” Director of Athletics Heather Lyke said. “Rarely do you find such an exceptionally gifted person who remains so humble and accessible to everyone they meet. That was Dr. Fu. His legacy—as a doctor, husband, father, grandfather and friend—will eternally inspire us at the University of Pittsburgh and beyond.”

“When people talk about Pitt legends, Dr. Freddie Fu should absolutely be included in that discussion,” Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi said. “He was the best in the world at what he did. So many of Pitt’s greatest athletes were blessed to have been treated and cared for by Dr. Fu. Not only was he a gifted doctor, but also someone who was personally invested in every person and patient he worked with. On behalf of our entire football program, I want to extend my deepest sympathies to his family and many loved ones.”

“Our team has heavy hearts as we lost a member of our Pitt volleyball family,” Pitt volleyball coach Dan Fisher said. “Dr. Freddie Fu was a mentor, a leader and above all a good man. He was one of our biggest supporters and loved our sport. He touched so many lives, including ours, and his legacy will live on. We are thinking of his family during this difficult time. May he rest in peace.”

Fu was known for rising before dawn and making his own orange juice and drinking green tea while he perused emails and newspapers and started the day. He also worked out daily in his home gym.

Fu, of Point Breeze, was the professor and chair of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. For years he also saw patients of all kinds at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.

He was primarily responsible for the conception and oversight of the design and construction of the $80 million UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, a 60-acre, state-of-the-art sports medicine complex that opened in 2000 and has treated athletes from all over the world.

The center has a multidisciplinary approach to sports injuries and performance and was the first of its kind in the country to have the resources of a major academic and clinical system with professional and collegiate sports programs.

In recognition of Fu’s pioneering work in orthopedic sports medicine and his contributions to UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh, the UPMC Sports Medicine Center was re-opened in 2018 and dedicated as the UPMC Freddie Fu Sports Medicine Center, following a multi-million-dollar renovation.

In 2017, Fu and another surgeon were credited with saving the knee of Ibrahimović, known as the “Swedish Striker,” who ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament while playing for Manchester United.

With Ibrahimović just 35 at the time of his injury, some feared his career was over. Ibrahimović is viewed by many as the Sidney Crosby of European soccer and after the surgery told sports media that Fu “saved my career.”

Fu was the David Silver Professor and Chairman of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He specialized in sports medicine and held secondary appointments as a professor of physical therapy, health and physical activity and mechanical engineering and was known as an international expert in knee reconstructions.

Fu graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1974 and received his BMS in 1975 from Dartmouth Medical School.

He earned his medical degree in 1977 from the University of Pittsburgh and completed his general surgery internship at Brown University. He returned to the University of Pittsburgh for an orthopedic research fellowship and to complete his orthopedic residency training.

During that time, Fu was an AO International Fellow at the Hannover Trauma Center in Germany and an arthroscopic surgery fellow in East Lansing, Michigan. In 1984, Fu was selected as an AOA North American Traveling Fellow.

As an ESSKA-AOSSM Sports Medicine Travelling Fellow in 1988, he visited over 30 sports medicine centers in Europe. Fu’s major research interest was in anatomic ACL reconstruction, clinical outcomes and bioengineering of sports-related problems.

Fu has been honored with over 260 professional awards and honors, made over 1,200 national and international presentations, co-authored 173 book chapters, wrote over 675 peer-reviewed articles and edited 30 major orthopedic textbooks.

In recognition of his national and international achievements, he received Lifetime/Honorary Membership from The European Society of Sports Traumatology, Knee Surgery and Arthroscopy, along with many others.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, the Fu family kindly asks memorial contributions to be made to the Fu Family Legacy Fund in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, P.O. Box 640093, Pittsburgh, PA, 15264-0093, or at http://pae.pitt.edu/RememberFu.