Richard J. Fugo, 72, of Plymouth Meeting, an ophthalmologist who gave his medical practice in Norristown a personal quality, died Saturday, March 14, of cancer at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery.
In 1985, after earning a medical degree in Italy, he created the Fugo Eye Institute on West Fornance Street in Norristown.
A general ophthalmologist and eye surgeon, he treated glaucoma, macular degeneration, eye infections, floaters, and eye injuries. All are typically found in senior citizens.
Dr. Fugo was committed to maintaining a personal tone in his practice. He knew his patients by name and liked to play Frank Sinatra’s music in the background while doing examinations and discussing eye conditions. “His patients loved it,” said his wife, Marie.
He was known for spending time with patients, treating several generations of the same family, and interacting with his staff as if they were an extended family.
“Many of his patients had been in his practice for over 20 years,” the family said in a statement. “As a result, they were saddened to learn that he was retiring in December 2019.”
But Dr. Fugo planned ahead to ensure a smooth hand-off, asking fellow ophthalmologist Steven Nissman to take over his patients. “He was very concerned about his patients. He wanted to retire knowing his patients were taken care of,” Nissman said.
Also a solo practitioner, Nissman agreed to carry on Dr. Fugo’s style of delivering eye care. “The medical industry has changed in the last generation,” Nissman said. “He wanted his patients to have the same experience with the doctor, one on one.”
Born in Norristown, Dr. Fugo was raised in Bridgeport by his parents, first-generation Italian Americans Alfred and Elsie Denick Fugo. Three aunts were also important in his life.
Dr. Fugo always had a passion for books and science. While attending Bishop Kenrick High School in Norristown, he won awards at science fairs and scholarships for academic excellence, especially in his senior year.
He then earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Pittsburgh, a master’s degree in biology at Villanova University, and a Ph.D. in human physiology at Thomas Jefferson Medical College. In 1979, he earned a medical degree from the University of Bologna.
“He spent six of his most treasured years living abroad with his wife, connecting with his heritage, and making lifelong friends,” the family said in a statement.
In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Fugo was the chief editor of medical journals. He lectured at conferences, published articles on eye care, and coauthored a medical textbook called “Ocular Applications of the Fugo Blade.” The Fugo Blade, a cutting device that he invented, uses high-energy laser pulses to ionize molecules on the ocular surface and inside the eye without damaging nearby tissue.
In his spare time, he enjoyed a plate of home-cooked pasta, listening to Sinatra or the Three Tenors, having coffee with friends, doing home handyman projects, reading medical textbooks, and spending time with family at a vacation home by the Chesapeake Bay.
Besides his wife, he is survived by daughters Jennifer Fugo and Nicole Fugo Zibelman; two granddaughters; a brother; and a sister.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, funeral services will be held later.