Photo Credit: skinmedica.com
I recall the first time I met Dr. Richard Fitzpatrick, known by everyone in dermatology and medical aesthetics around the world as just “FITZ”. It was at a cosmeceuticals conference that I had organized in New York City and his lovely and devoted wife Betsy was there by his side, as always. I considered it such an honor and a privilege that a man of his stature would come all the way from sunny La Jolla to join the faculty of our little 2-day event in cloudy midtown Manhattan. For me, it was a special day.
From that day forward, I saw him at numerous AAD, ASDS and other conferences. I often tried to say hello but he was usually surrounded by hoards of fans and well wishers. Everyone always wanted to know what Fitz thought. He was one of the most beloved dermatologists of his generation, and there are many reasons why. First, he was brilliant and an innovator in laser technologies. Secondly, he had a spirit that was purely infectious and that drew people in. Even during times of illness, he seemed to always be smiling. He was the man who would not quit, and Betsy was the woman who wouldn’t let him. His loss marked a sad moment for so many people.
The best way to remember Fitz is by reading what some of his closest colleagues have to say about the man, his incredible career, and his timeless contributions to advances in laser technology and topical skin care.
“I was privileged to work with Dr. Fitzpatrick (‘Fitz’ as he was commonly referred to by friends and colleagues) for several years. He was an icon in the skincare industry who epitomized the word “pioneer.” His brilliant innovations, including the founding of SkinMedica were second only to his immense passion and enthusiasm for the industry and improving outcomes for his patients. His exuberant personality touched those who had the pleasure of knowing him, and his contributions to the world of medicine touched all of us. He will be deeply missed but forever remembered.” – Ted Schwarz, Vice President Global Commercial Operations for SkinMedica
“Dr. Fitzpatrick (‘Fitz’ or ‘The King of Lasers’) was a man of quiet accomplishment and was a genuine colleague with whom I collaborated for over 20 years. He was someone whose professional views and personal thoughts I trusted and whose insight was critical to my own professional development. His sense of irony and humor were very much a part of what was so attractive to all of us who knew him. I will miss him very much.” – Tina S. Alster, MD, Director, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, Washington DC
“What always struck me about Fitz is that he was a man who was so successful academically, clinicall,y and financially but remained completely without arrogance. He always had a happy twinkle in his eyes —early in my career, I saw him at a Dermatology Foundation reception and asked his advice about a patient who scratched up her face after CO2 laser resurfacing. He reassured me that I’d done everything correctly then said ‘a trichotillomaniac came into my office asking for hair transplants’ …an educational example told like the start of a joke… He made me feel better then and I remember two decades later.” – Heidi A Waldorf MD, Director, Laser & Cosmetic Dermatology, Mt. Sinai Medical Center, New York, NY
“Fitz was the Father of Resurfacing. I have notes from a lecture he gave in the 1990s about CO2 lasers that I still refer to for information that is applicable today. He never stopped even when he was ill and that was inspiring, to see how much he loved practicing. He always had the absolutely best before and after photographs, he was a true master of aesthetics.” – Amy Forman Taub, MD, Medical Director, Founder, Advanced Dermatology/skinfo, Lincolnshire, IL
“The greatest thing about Fitz was his true passion for lasers—he always wanted to know exactly why things worked and was always working to tackle tough cases. He was also bold enough to talk abut his own complications. Once we were staffing a dermatology clinic at UCSD together and he recounted how he would spend up to 2-3 hours meticulously treating a port wine stain with the old argon laser by hand with a 600 micron spot—no scanner! It really was like the famous ‘wax on wax off’ lines from The Karate Kid movie. I also recall that he would be so nauseous during his treatment that he would have to take a break, head to the restroom, but would still return to see more patients— now that is tough!” – E. Victor Ross, MD, Scripps Clinic Laser & Cosmetic Dermatology Center, San Diego, CA
(via Facebook) “It is not too often that you come across an individual that profoundly impacts your life. Fitz was one of those individuals. Fitz not only taught me lasers, but also shared with me his contagious love for life. My friend, my mentor: rest in peace. I will miss you.” – Cameron Rokhsar, M.D, Dermatologist, New York, NY
(via Facebook) “We owe a lot to Fitz and he will be sorely missed. I like to remember him the way I saw him at the 2013 ASDS meeting in Chicago. Laughing and hanging out with colleagues at the hotel bar late into the wee hours of the night.” – Vivian Bucay, M.D., Dermatologist, San Antonio, TX
(via Facebook) “The world who knows Fitz will always grieve his loss. His intelligence and wit was only outmatched by his generosity of heart. All who knew him will always cherish his memory. To Betsy, always remember you are one of the luckiest women in the world. The more you loved, the more it hurts…. And while the hurt may at times be overwhelming, it is only because your love was as well. He wants you to be happy…. sending you strength!” – Karyn Grossman, MD, Grossman Dermatology, Santa Monica, CA