Remembering Dr. Freddie Fu

The following material was prepared and circulated by Dr. Freddie Fu, Chair, Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh/UPMC, as a tribute to the partnership between the University of Kentucky and Pitt. 


The Pitt-Kentucky Quadruple Crown

A longstanding relationship between Pitt and Kentucky orthopaedic surgery departments exists and continues to thrive. Dr. Thomas Brower was one of the first residents to train under Orthopaedic Chairman Albert Ferguson at Pitt. Through residency and as faculty at Pitt, Dr. Brower focused his research on articular cartilage, becoming the first to demonstrate chondrocytes can divide and that articular cartilage received nutrients through perfusion of intra-articular fluid. His work culminated in a landmark JBJS publication in 1962. He then took a job at the University of Kentucky and became the first Chairman of Orthopaedic Surgery (1965-1989).

A few decades later in 1989, the neuromuscular lab at Pitt was founded by Dr. Scott Lephart and Dr. Freddie Fu. Dr. Lephart would become professor and chair of the department of sports medicine and nutrition at Pitt. He has been awarded multiple Department of Defense research grants to establish Warrior Human Performance Center laboratories across the country. Coincidentally, Dr. Lephart joined the faculty at Kentucky in 2015 as Dean of the College of Health Sciences and serves as professor and endowed chair of orthopaedic research. He has advanced his world-class research by founding the University of Kentucky Sports Medicine Research Institute (SMRI) where he works alongside Director Dr. Nick Heebner, who received his Master and Doctorate degrees in sports medicine and rehabilitation science from the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Darren Johnson was an outstanding sports medicine fellow at Pitt, completing fellowship in 1993 alongside Drs. Mark Miller and Paul Marks. Dr. Johnson was heavily involved in the neuromuscular lab founded by Lephart and Fu where he joined forces with leader of clinical outcomes research, Dr. Jay Irrgang, and worked closely with Dr. Lephart to advance the field through research. Dr. Irrgang became Chairman of the Department of Physical Therapy at Pitt in 2016. After fellowship, Dr. Johnson joined the faculty at Kentucky and showed his grit and determination in quickly becoming Kentucky’s Chairman of Orthopaedic Surgery in 2000.

Most recently, Dr. Jeremy Burnham connected these two institutions. After training under Chairman Darren Johnson in residency at Kentucky (2011-2016), he completed his sports medicine fellowship at Pitt in 2017. Today he is the Director of Sports Medicine at Ochsner clinic in Louisiana. 


Dr. Fu was a man of great influence and impact in this world associated with his leadership in Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. He touched lives around the globe with his infectious personality and boundless energy. He passed away Friday evening at the age of 70, but he lived his life and touched us all with lessons of kindness, excellence, fun and devotion to family. He will be missed. 

Godspeed, rest in peace, and thank you, Freddie.

We love you.

Scott Lephart,
Dean, College of Health Sciences