Raleigh doctor Powell G. Fox dies at 85

pseligson@newsobserver.comFebruary 22, 2014 

Dr. Powell G. Fox, known as P.G., died Saturday morning at age 85 due to heart problems. He was a founding leader of what is now Duke Raleigh Hospital and is known for an iconic sports moment in 1974.

COURTESY OF THE FOX FAMILY

A pillar of Raleigh’s medical community has passed away.

Dr. Powell G. Fox, known as P.G., died Saturday morning at age 85 due to heart problems. He was a founding leader of what is now Duke Raleigh Hospital and is known for an iconic sports moment: He was the doctor who rushed to N.C. State basketball player David Thompson’s side when he injured his head in a 1974 lead-up game to the NCAA championship.

Fox’s career was defined by his compassion, his co-workers, friends and family said.

He maintained an office at Duke Raleigh Hospital and visited each week to catch up with the doctors and staff, said Carla Hollis, interim president of the hospital. Fox held the title of chief medical officer emeritus.

“He was embracing,” Hollis said. “He would talk to an environmental services employee as quickly as he would talk to a neurosurgeon. That’s just the man he was.”

His daughter, Sarah Fox, recalled how she and her brother went on rounds with her father as children every Sunday. “What I remember so well is he would visit with each patient, and go in and sit in their room and listen to them, and really make that patient feel heard,” she said.

“He was the most compassionate, engaging, caring man that I’ve ever known,” Fox said. “He just found a way to talk to people and listen to people, and just connect with people, and he really spent his whole life dedicated to health care and his friends and family.”

An illustrious career

Powell G. Fox was born in Raleigh in 1928. He graduated from Broughton High School in 1944. After getting his medical degree, Fox served in the Army as a doctor until 1955. He completed his urology residency training at the Medical College of Virginia, where he took part in the first kidney transplant in the Southeast.

Fox returned to Raleigh in 1960 to work with his father, Powell G. Fox Sr., also a urologist. Together they worked at Central Carolina Urological Associates and Mary Elizabeth Hospital. As the hospital continued to grow, Fox advocated for a new facility, which is now Duke Raleigh Hospital. He became the founding chairman of the new hospital’s board and served as chief medical officer from 1988 to 2008.

Fox was known for his humor, warmth and love of golf. Hollis said Fox’s legacy is his vision for health care in the area.

“He believed that Mary Elizabeth Hospital was a hospital that could be relocated to North Raleigh in an area that was very unpopulated then,” she said. “It could be a hospital of growth. It could serve the community.”

Fox also served in organizations including the Red Cross, the Special Olympics and the United Way, and he was named to the Raleigh Hall of Fame in 2009.

The 1974 fall

In March 1974, Thompson ran down the court at the NCAA Eastern Regional game, jumping high to block a shot. N.C. State was playing against Pittsburgh, and as the All-American star player Thompson jumped, his feet caught on the shoulders of another player.

He flipped over in midair and landed on his head.

Fox had served as N.C. State’s game doctor for years, sitting on the bench next to coaches and players. He was the first to reach Thompson, and he stayed with him on the trip to Rex Hospital.

Thompson can’t remember the moment he hit his head. “But looking at the tape, I just saw how he took care of me and patched me up, and got me ready to go to the hospital,” he said Saturday.

On the day of the injury, Thompson returned to the court with a bandage wrapped around his head, in time to see his team beat Pittsburgh. N.C. State went on to win its first NCAA championship that year. Thompson and Fox reconnected recently thanks to a philanthropic organization, the P.G. Fox Society, named in the doctor’s honor.

Run by the Duke Raleigh Hospital, the society gives out an award inspired by Fox’s care of Thompson. The Compassionate Care Award is a statue of a hand reaching out and checking a wrist for a pulse, inspired by an iconic photo of that moment in 1974.

Fox leaves behind his wife, Ann; a sister, Shirley Ann Phillips; a daughter, Sarah Fox; two stepchildren, Lee and Harriet Stephenson; two grandchildren, Ford Wheaton and Sarah Wesley Wheaton; and two stepgrandchildren, Mallory and Russell Stephenson.

The funeral will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Christ Church in downtown Raleigh. Brown-Wynne Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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