Remembering Angelo Patsalis, MD, FAAFP

April 10, 2020—It is with profound sadness that we share the passing of long-time Academy member and past president of Michigan Academy of Family Physicians (2008-2009) and Family Medicine Foundation of Michigan (2015-2016) Angelo Patsalis, MD, FAAFP (Livonia) due to complications from COVID-19.

Dr. Patsalis was a steadfast champion of his beloved specialty, dedicating his career as a family physician to providing primary care for all. He is remembered as a tireless family medicine mentor and educator; volunteer leader at the local, state, and national level; and a catalyst for change in Metro Detroit, where he was born, raised, lived, worked, and spent time with family and friends.

His giving nature is exemplified by the words he shared upon beginning his term as president of Family Medicine Foundation of Michigan, where he continued to serve as a trustee until the time of his death. “When you believe in something deeply and know it’s important, you always find time, you’re never too busy and never too tired. I am proud and blessed to be a family physician. It has helped me make a difference in people’s lives, both in the clinic and in the community.”

“Angelo Patsalis was the quintessential family physician and strong leader in our specialty. And he was one of the finest and most caring people I have had the pleasure of knowing. He will be greatly missed,” said Doug Henley, MD, FAAFP, executive vice president and chief executive officer of American Academy of Family Physicians.

These words are echoed by MAFP President-elect Mark Hamed, MD, MBA, MPH, FAAFP, who had honor of training under Dr. Patsalis during his family medicine residency at Henry Ford Health System. With great respect, Dr. Hamed shares his memories of Dr. Patsalis’ mentorship, advocacy, dedication to the practice of family medicine and patient-centered care, and friendship.

“When I was an intern in 2008 and met some frustration with having difficulty diagnosing a patient, I approached him with that difficulty. He took me to the side of the precepting clinic and emphasized the importance of sitting down and just listening to the patient, letting them tell you what's wrong with them. Most of the time they would provide you with enough information to diagnose and treat them by them just talking to you. Patients appreciate that discussion, and from there you build their trust and respect. He was correct, and that has been the basis of my practice ever since.

He was a great teacher who taught residents how to critically analyze information. He made it a point to prep us for our in-training exams with ABFM board prep questions, guiding the residents not only why a certain answer was correct, but the full explanation of why the incorrect choices were wrong. He made us feel as if we were the test-question writers, which made studying for our in-training exams and our Board exam much easier.

He always reminded us of the importance of protecting and advancing the specialty of Family Medicine. He emphasized the versatility of our specialty, the uniqueness of our practices, and the need to be proactive in ensuring that the specialty of family medicine will weather any challenges it faces now and in the future. 

He was a firm believer in health equity and of addressing health disparities. When I was an intern at the now-closed Henry Ford-Detroit East Medical Center, I was a witness to the effects of tobacco abuse by minors and low-birth weight babies born to smokers at a substantially higher rate than the rest of the State of Michigan. He told me that it was our duty as family physicians to advocate for the betterment of our patients, including laws to help eliminate tobacco smoking from restaurants and public places. One of my most pleasant memories of him was, when he was president of MAFP, his excitement with the successful efforts of MAFP to help advance Michigan's Smoke-Free Air Law in 2009. He called me at the clinic and said, "Your patients' futures just got a lot better, the bill passed!"

Dr. Angelo Patsalis was a great family physician, teacher, and human being. He will be sorely missed.”