June 6, 1933 – Dec. 11, 2017
When Dr. Thomas A. Hassenfratz started his practice in 1961, podiatrists weren’t allowed to admit patients to hospitals.
However, his father, Dr. Arthur C. Hassenfratz, was a physician with an extensive family practice and he was well acquainted with staff and administrators at local hospitals.
Before long, he was being allowed to work at the former Sheridan Park Hospital in the Town of Tonawanda and continued to advance his profession locally for many years.
“He was non-confrontational and very friendly,” said his son, Jay, who also is a podiatrist. “He knew how to negotiate from a friendly standpoint. In general, it was his personality that helped. He was a trailblazer. He cut through a lot of barriers.”
An Amherst resident, he died Monday in Buffalo General Medical Center. He was 84.
Born in Buffalo, he was a 1952 graduate of Canisius High School. After he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1956 from Marquette University in Milwaukee, he considered going into dentistry.
“He was caught between dentistry and podiatry,” his son said, “but he decided he didn’t really have the fine motor skills to be a dentist.”
He completed a doctor of podiatric medicine degree at the New York College of Podiatrist Medicine in Manhattan and began his practice in his father’s office on Genesee Street in Cheektowaga. He later established an office on Cleveland Drive.
Dr. Hassenfratz was one of the first podiatrists in Western New York to be admitted to the staff of a local hospital, Sisters Hospital, and was instrumental in developing the Podiatric Division and residency program on podiatry at the former Sheehan Memorial Hospital.
“He was very revered,” his son said. “He’s the one who started a lot of the stuff, not only admitting to hospitals, but also to do surgery there. He trained a lot of people, the leading people in Buffalo today.”
In the 1980s, he was elected president of the Sheehan Hospital Medical Group, an unusual distinction for someone without an M.D. degree. The hospital honored him in 1987 for his service.
He also was affiliated with Kaleida Health hospitals and the Center for Ambulatory Surgery in West Seneca. He retired in 2015.
He was a past president of the Western New York Division of the New York State Podiatrist Association, a diplomate of the American Board of Podiatric Surgery and a fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgery and the American Professional Wound Care Association.
He also was a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association.
He met the former Donna M. Pusateri when she was working in a hospital as a medical technologist. They were married in 1959 and she managed his office for many years.
In addition to his wife and son, survivors include another son, Michael A.; a daughter, Ann Marie Fowler; and four grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 15 in St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, 200 St. Gregory Court, Amherst.