March 1, 2010

Kellogg mourns the loss of long-time faculty member Bartley R. Frueh, M.D.

Bartley R. Frueh, M.D.

ANN ARBOR, MI - Bartley R. Frueh, M.D., a renowned oculoplastic surgeon at the University of Michigan who traveled the world to provide and teach oculoplastic surgery, died suddenly on February 16 at the age of 72.

Dr. Frueh was born September 1, 1937, in Lakewood, Ohio, son of Lloyd W. Frueh, who preceded him in death, and Virginia E. Frueh, who survives. Dr. Frueh earned an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University and attended medical school at Columbia University. He served as a flight medical officer in the US Air Force from 1965 to 1967.  He completed his ophthalmology residency at U-M in 1970 and then undertook a fellowship in oculoplastic surgery under the mentorship of the late Alston Callahan, M.D. in Birmingham, Alabama. Dr. Frueh then served as Director of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Missouri Medical Center from 1973 to 1979. He served on the faculty of the U-M Kellogg Eye Center for over 30 years, beginning in 1979.

Dr. Frueh was known among his family, friends, and colleagues for his zest for life, his enthusiasm for fellowship with other people, his love of travel, his curiosity, his professional accomplishments, and for his many wide-ranging interests.  Cheerful and boisterous, he enjoyed swapping stories, jokes, and experiences with everyone he encountered.  He loved cooking for and eating with others, along with sharing the occasional glass of wine.  No one ever went hungry or thirsty in his kitchen, and there was always plenty of laughter shared.  To list but a few of his hobbies, he enjoyed woodworking, rebuilding and driving antique cars, architecture and design, U-M football, and he was in the process of trying to master Chinese calligraphy. At the time of his death, a permanent exhibition of his calligraphy was being planned for the new Kellogg Eye Center expansion building.  This project will be completed in Dr. Frueh’s memory.  He was an avid reader of history and had audited classes in Roman archaeology.  He had an enthusiastic interest in Roman archeology and had participated, with his wife, in an archeological dig outside Rome in 2009 and had planned to return to serve as numismatist and onsite physician at the same site in 2010.  

Dr. Frueh was an acknowledged world expert on Graves’ eye disease and a highly respected teacher and mentor to ophthalmology residents and fellows. His extensive research on the physiology of ocular muscles was well regarded. 

Dr. Paul R. Lichter, F. Bruce Fralick Professor and Chair of the department, recruited Dr. Frueh to create the Eye Plastics and Orbital Surgery Service at U-M in 1979. Dr. Frueh guided the service’s development and growth, which today is among the very top tier oculoplastics services, not only in this country, but around the world, said Dr. Lichter. With his vision for the service and a hands-on approach, he helped to shape a relatively new sub-specialty, while forming close relationships with colleagues in dermatology, otolaryngology, and plastic surgery.

Dr. Frueh took great pride in developing the Eye Center’s training program for oculoplastic fellows, recalls colleague Christine Nelson, M.D. He inspired and challenged his trainees, many of whom became lifelong friends. Over the years, Dr. Nelson observed and admired Dr. Frueh’s high ethical standards and his ability to hone in on “the right thing to do” in every situation.  

Among his many honors, Dr. Frueh was president of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, which honored him with its prestigious Wendell L. Hughes Lecturer Award in 1993.  He was a member of the Orbital Society, an examiner for the American Board of Ophthalmology for two decades, and taught courses at the American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting each year for 37 years. In 1990 he received the Academy’s Senior Honor Award.  In 2003 he presented the Kellogg Eye Center’s F. Bruce Fralick Lecture. He published widely in his field and still had several papers he wished to pursue.

After retiring from his full-time faculty position in 2008, Dr. Frueh was named Emeritus Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and continued to see patients and perform surgery  at the U-M Kellogg Eye Center. 

Throughout his career, Dr. Frueh sought to provide eye care in countries where eye surgeons were in short supply. A board member of the World Eye Mission, Dr. Frueh traveled on medical missions to Nepal, Guatemala, Peru, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. His wife, Cheryl, often accompanied him on these trips, where he performed surgery, gave medical lectures, and helped train local physicians. In the past 11 years, he had traveled to 24 different countries.

Dr. Frueh often expressed how fortunate he was to be among the few people who could say, “I love my job.”  His passion for his work was one reason that he and Cheryl had decided to honor his parents by creating the Lloyd and Virginia Frueh Research Professorship in Eye Plastics and Orbital Surgery at the University of Michigan.

In addition to his wife Cheryl Frueh, Dr. Frueh is survived by sons Christopher (Karen) Frueh, Terry (Kerstin) Frueh, Eric (Annette) Sargent, and Cain (Char) Christen; daughters Cherilyn (Cameron) Boswell, and Laura Sargent; and the grandchildren he so adored: Kai and Benjamin Frueh, William Sargent, Noah, Rosa and Anna Christen.  Survivors also include his sister Elizabeth (Bernard) Goldsmith; his brother, Lloyd Frueh; and many other family, friends and colleagues. In addition to his father, he was preceded in death by his son, Dylan Frueh.

In celebration of his life, the family received visitors on February 21 in Ann Arbor.

Memorial donations may be made to the Lloyd and Virginia Frueh Research Professorship in Eye Plastics and Orbital Surgery, c/o the Kellogg Eye Center, 1000 Wall St., Ann Arbor, MI 48105.  Checks should be made to the University of Michigan.

Last Modified: Wednesday, 08-Feb-2012 10:23:26 EST