American Surgical Association Transactions

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1936 - 2020

Frederick B. Parker, Jr., M.D., 1936-2020

On December 5, 2020 Frederick (Fritz) B. Parker Jr. MD, 84 of Dewitt passed away peacefully at home with his loving wife, Ginny by his side. Fritz was a proud native son of Lowville, NY where he attended Lowville Academy. He obtained his BA from the University of Rochester in 1958 and his MD from the University of Rochester in 1962. He served as the Chief of Surgical Services and consultant in general surgery at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington from 1968 to 1970. He returned to Albany Medical Center to complete his surgery residency and cardiothoracic fellowship. He joined the Department of Surgery at SUNY Upstate Medical University in 1971, at the invitation of Watts Webb, and arrived in Syracuse with his wife Ginny and small children Amy and Matthew. Fritz was appointed Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Program Director for the Thoracic Residency in 1976 until 1991, when he became Chair of the Department of Surgery until his retirement in 2001.

Fritz arrived in Syracuse at the start of widespread open-heart surgery. Prior to his arrival and that of Dr. Watts Webb in one year earlier, the mortality of these cases was still very high. They formed a new team, and very soon most patients survived their trip to the operating room. One of their senior cardiology colleagues at the time recalled being very impressed at the courteous, friendly and even relaxed behavior of the new team. Fritz was almost always calm in the operating room, and willingly lent a hand to any struggling patient or surgeon even at night and during weekends and holidays. His surgical success and that of those he trained and hired attracted patients from a wide swath of Upstate New York. His name was well known by cardiologists in 19 counties and far beyond. He never lost his love for the small towns in Central New York and the North Country like Lowville, where he grew up.

Over his career, Dr. Parker participated in the training of 39 cardiothoracic residents. These “Parker residents” have been in leadership positions across the country and the world, all having benefited from his humanitarianism, compassion and desire to impart what he had learned to others. His curiosity and interest in everyone he met was famous especially in the operating room where he quizzed every student nurse and medical student about their home town and family background, and remembered it too. Even after retirement, he spent a lot of time at the Upstate Medical Library, partly studying Italian (inspired by his love of opera) and partly so he could interact with medical students, which he continued until the pandemic interrupted these activities just months prior to his death.

During retirement, Fritz pursued his passions including: fly fishing with friends, bird watching, writing a book about his family camp in the Adirondacks and fundraising for organizations he loved. He and Ginny Parker defined what it meant to be active, giving members of the Upstate and Syracuse communities. For over 40 years they actively strove to make our institution and community a better place to live and work. Fritz was especially active in the Upstate Foundation and a tireless fundraiser for the Golisano Children’s Hospital, the Upstate Cancer Center, Syracuse Stage, Syracuse Symphony (now Symphoria) and the University of Rochester. Fritz served on the Upstate Foundation Board for 17 years. He and Ginny’s contributions to community-based organizations like Interfaith Works and the Nature Conservancy are too numerous to detail. The Department of Surgery at Upstate and the Syracuse community have suffered a great loss, he was special to so many.