Memories of Patsi from Those at the ABOS Who Knew Her Well
Ms. Patsi Furr
September 3, 1949-May 9, 2019
Douglas W. Lundy, MD, President:
Diplomates of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery lost one of their greatest advocates, friends, and supporters when Ms. Patsi Furr passed away on May 9, 2019. Patsi truly loved orthopaedic surgeons and the work we do to help patients live more productive and enjoyable lives. She loved the passion and care that we give to our patients. She loved the collegiality and professionalism that we share. In a word, Patsi loved.
And we loved her, and we always will. Her contagious smile, laugh, and attitude always lifted our spirits. She was the consistent soul of the Chapel Hill office; always willing to help out those in need.
One thing I will never forget is Patsi’s way of soothing the fearful Candidate during the Oral Examinations. In her southern voice she would say “you’ll be okay, honey”, and the orthopaedic surgeon facing her would find solace and genuine comfort in her confidence. She did the same on the phone to countless Diplomates and Candidates over the years. In a moment of personal crisis, Patsi had a caring way of making you feel better.
She was truly loved by the members of the Association of Residency Coordinators in Orthopaedic Surgery (ARCOS) as well. They loved her so much, that they designated the “Annual Patsi Furr Coordinator Lecture” to commemorate her years of service to the ABOS and the members of ARCOS. Patsi’s effect was felt by so many, and we will all miss her very much.
Lastly, Patsi was so incredibly genuinely welcoming and hospitable when my wife Peggy and I attended our first ABOS Director’s meeting seven years ago. Patsi quickly became a good friend, and she had an uncanny knack of doing that with so many. We will miss her smile, her hugs, and her friendship. Rest in peace, Patsi, and know that we love you.
David F. Martin, MD, Executive Medical Director:
Patsi Furr was a rare treasure – devoted, loyal, caring, kind, witty, and honest. The American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS) was the beneficiary of Patsi’s dedication for 26 years – the field of orthopaedic surgery is a better place for patients and a better place for surgeons because of Patsi’s undivided attention and unwavering service. I am proud to call her a true friend.
Patsi first helped me when I began as a volunteer question writer and examiner for the ABOS almost 20 years ago. She was always there to lend a hand, offer advice, and point me in the right direction. I came to see Patsi as one measure of True North – someone that I could count on to gently (or, if necessary, firmly) point me in the right direction. I could depend on Patsi to share the truth, but to always offer comfort and courage when the truth wasn’t pretty!
Working alongside Patsi in Chapel Hill over the last three years of her career was a privilege and a joy – it is a time that I will always cherish. Her smile and sense of humor will be sorely missed. While the candy basket in her office lured me in, it was the wit and wisdom that kept me there (not to mention the hugs and encouragement when needed). At the ABOS, Patsi knew where we had been, why we had been there, and where we needed to go – her passion for the ABOS and doing the right thing was boundless. Again, she was a measure of True North!
Patsi was a friend to all – caring and welcoming. She will be greatly missed, but never forgotten. Everyone she met was moved by her kindness. My wife Sue and daughters Lizzie and Sarah were always touched by her caring and fun-loving spirit. Patsi was really special! She had that ability to make everyone feel like they were her favorite.
Patsi – you were one of a kind! Rest in peace and know that you left the world a better place. A large part of our ‘True North’ is missing, but we are comforted to know that we have another guardian angel.
Patti Scalf and Denise Frazier, Longtime Employees:
In early 1992, the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery had moved their operations from Chicago, Illinois to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The Executive Director was still living in Chicago. None of the office staff had moved. The Board was in the process of building a 3-story office building adjacent to the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). The ABOS had four new employees whose temporary office quarters were in random vacant spaces within the ABP building.
It was the Chief Operating Officer, the two of us who had worked together at UNC Hospitals, and another woman named Patsi Furr. She had worked previously at the University of North Carolina with the new COO, who had insisted on hiring her.
We did not see each other much, and mostly talked by phone, since it took several minutes, elevators, and stairs to walk through the maze that was ABP to get to each other’s offices, and so Patsi decided to put bowls (always full) of M&M’s and Runts on her desk to lure us in, and get us to stay and talk. It worked. We all became close in a very short time.
The next thing Patsi started was her hugs. When Board members came in for meetings, to their surprise she hugged them, and they awkwardly sort of hugged her in return. She immediately learned their names, their wives’ names, their kids, and their pets’ names. Pretty soon, when the Directors would arrive, they would hug all of us, and then wait for the latest stories of all our lives told as Patsi Furr’s stand-up (or sitting down) comedy.
By fall, we were settled into the new ABOS building, and hosted the Fall Board Meeting. Patsi arranged for the Board picture. Then at picture time, she straightened ties, and adjusted a few jackets and stray hairs. She received a lot of “thank you’s” and some “my wife thanks you.”
When the Board Meeting resumed, a neighbor on property behind the office could be heard mowing his lawn. Patsi walked out back through the new grass and mud in her high heels and convinced him to stop mowing.
We all wore a lot of hats at that time, and Patsi among other things, answered the phone – “Hi, how are y’all doing today? No, the office is not in Chicago any longer. How could you tell?”
Later, we hired a receptionist, so that Patsi could concentrate on her role as Part I Exam and Residency Program Coordinator.
She helped thousands of Part I Candidates through the application process. And she was on a first-name basis with quite a few of the mothers of the repeating Part I Candidates. One of them even sent her rosary beads.
When she wasn’t dealing with the Candidates directly, she was assisting the individual Program Coordinators in completing the Board’s Record of Residency Assignment (RRA) forms. Many of the coordinators met annually at the ARCOS meeting during the AAOS Annual Meeting, and they began a campaign to have her come to the meeting to give a presentation and answer RRA questions. She did, and she became a standard part of the meeting each year. After Patsi retired, she was asked to attend once more, where they presented her with a plaque for the newly designated ARCOS Patsi Furr Annual Program Coordinator Lecture.
Traveling with Patsi was always entertaining. She would check-in to a hotel and then step outside to smoke. By the time we checked in and stepped outside, she would have made a couple of new friends, knew their life stories, and would be telling her own hilarious stories to them. Correction… telling stories that had become hilarious once she retold them.
The ABOS Office is in a beautiful wooded setting. One day Patsi and two colleagues were going to lunch together and as they headed down the stairs to the covered parking area, a fox appeared in the grassy area. Patsi was in front and tried to shoo him away. When he just stood there, the other 2 staff went running back up the stairs, but Patsi would not budge and swung her purse towards him. He started to run towards her, and so she thought better of it and ran up the stairs, but the fox nipped her ankle before she could get away. She was taken to the hospital where they started rabies shots.
When we went to pick her up, she hopped in the car and started telling us how many shots they had given her and how large the shots were. When she started to complain about it to the nurse, he told her that the amount of shots was based on her weight. She replied “If I had known that, I would have thrown one of those skinny girls down the stairs in front of me!”
And finally, once, when we were in Chicago to give the Oral Examinations, she was sitting outside at a restaurant, and saw a couple with a baby leave their stroller on the street outside a place of business while they went inside. She then observed a homeless person walk by, take the stroller and start pushing it down the street. She jumped up, ran across the street, confronted the homeless person, grabbed the stroller and took it back to the couple. That was our girl.
And now, she has a whole new audience….
Shepard R. Hurwitz, MD, Former Executive Director:
Patsi Furr. I just need to say her name, and it always brings a smile to my face and sometimes a chuckle. She was a fantastic presence at the ABOS for as many years as I have been associated. All of us, the staff and Directors and Diplomates and Examinees and Examiners–were her family, and she was part of our family. She cared for, and showed so much patience, for all Diplomates and Applicants, especially those who were having a hard time with ABOS applications and other processes. And, oh yes, that wicked sense of humor. Not wicked in an evil sense but in the way New Englanders (read: Yankees) use the word wicked to express something extraordinary. She made us laugh at things she either made up based upon something from an experience with an ABOS person or event, or maybe it was the truth, but the laughter was genuine and infectious. Like the time she roasted Paul DeRosa at the Palmer House farewell luncheon for him, she was very uncomfortable speaking before the large group but was incredibly funny and sincere.
Patsi was a fixture in the ABOS office in Chapel Hill and at the lower level at the Palmer House Hilton for the Oral Examinations. She was a charter member of the Steel Magnolias at the office and definitely Southern to the core. Having her always around (she rarely seemed to vacation) and her dogs-first Buddy then Duchess-grounded the whole group in reality, Patsi’s version of reality. At the team meetings, she always told it straight and often with some peppery language that I assumed Southern ladies didn’t use (in public). True Southern charm.
Among the many people who love and admire her are the Orthopaedic Residency Coordinators of ARCOS. In fact, they now have an annual Patsi Furr Award that they present at their annual gathering during the AAOS Annual Meeting. Patsi was there last March for the first award and promised to be there for as long as she could. And, I believe she will be there and she will continue to be in 400 Silver Cedar Court, Chapel Hill, NC 27514 for a long time to come. Needless to say, we all remember her and miss her terribly. Fond farewell from us all.
Scott E. Porter, MD, Director:
It is with the utmost of sadness that I received the news of Pasti’s passing. While my relationship was not nearly as deep as her relationship with other members of the Board of the ABOS, it was nevertheless equally as rich. I came to know Patsi by voice only as she consulted with me on a logistical nightmare that we unraveled and corrected during my time as a Program Director. We all knew and loved that voice!! This was in 2015 and at that time, I had no idea that I would serve our orthopaedic community as a member of the Board. When I came into the ABOS Board family, one of my first actions upon arriving at 400 Silver Cedar Court was to track Patsi down!! It was only after I met her face to face that I came to understand that the beauty of the person rivaled that of the voice. I feel robbed by her retirement and subsequent passing but take comfort in understanding the impact that this one wonderful individual has had on so many Residents, Diplomates, and Board Members over the years.
John G. Seiler, III, MD, President 2008-2009:
The day-to-day function of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery has always been done through the incredibly hard work of a very small group of dedicated professionals who are 100% committed to the mission served by the Board. This week, a valued member of our team passed on. If you ever called or corresponded with the Board then you likely have talked with Patsi Furr. Patsi joined the Board in 1991 when the North Carolina office was opened and served our Diplomates faithfully for the next 26 years until her retirement in 2018. A tireless worker, Patsi had a razor sharp, acerbic Southern wit. Her epic roast of G. Paul DeRosa at the time of his retirement brought the house down! If you served the Board as a Director, then Patsi had a nickname for you. (I was Big John!) While a fair number are known to me, I’d love to read the full and unredacted list! While she eschewed the spotlight, she never met a stranger. Her warm personality was always a welcome part of the Board meetings. As a true steel magnolia, Patsi was also strong with honest opinion, I always enjoyed her point of view and the ideas she would represent, they were helpful. Deeply knowledgeable of Board processes and motivated to always try and “do the right thing”, she soothed many nervous applicants, facilitated our certification process and in so doing helped to improve the quality of care for Orthopaedics in the United States. She will be missed by many but especially so by the over 60 Directors that have also served the Board during her tenure.
May God bless her soul.
Robert H. Cofield, MD, President 1999-2000:
She will always be remembered for the joy she would bring to almost any situation with her natural pleasantness and wit. Those who interfaced with her in ABOS activities will recognize how she, in a non-emotional way, gave straight-forward answers right away. If someone would disagree, she would immediately place the person in contact with a more senior person in the organization who would provide the answer – without delay. The answer may not have always been one the Candidate or Program Director would have wished, but the question was resolved, and people could move forward in the correct direction.
Importantly, once a friend, the relationship was long-lasting, even when contacts were few and far between. And the greetings were pleasant and heart-felt.