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Orthopaedic Heroes—Here are Mine, Who are Yours?

Leopold, Seth S., MD

Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®: March 2018 - Volume 476 - Issue 3 - p 447–448
doi: 10.1007/s11999.0000000000000168

S. S. Leopold, Editor-In-Chief, Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research ® , Philadelphia, PA, USA

S.S. Leopold MD, Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research ®. 1600 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19013 USA, Email:

The author certifies that neither he, nor any members of his immediate family, have any commercial associations (such as consultancies, stock ownership, equity interest, patent/licensing arrangements, etc.) that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with the submitted article.

All ICMJE Conflict of Interest Forms for authors and Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research ® editors and board members are on file with the publication and can be viewed on request.

The opinions expressed are those of the writers, and do not reflect the opinion or policy of CORR ® or The Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons®.

As the 2017 Major League Baseball season drew down, the New York Times reported that New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio—a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan—consented to hosting a ticker-tape parade in lower Manhattan should the New York Yankees win the World Series [3]. Mayor de Blasio never had to make good on his promise; the Houston Astros took the Yankees in seven en route to a World Series championship against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Nonetheless, the Times’s editorial board took the Mayor’s commitment to civil society as just enough of a thread to hang on to in these fractious times. They wrote a touching essay called “Where Have All Our Heroes Gone” [3], suggesting some other individuals who they thought merited a ticker-tape parade in the Yankees’ absence.

The Times was right to do so. This is a good time to identify people who deserve our honor and respect. In the editorial pages of Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research® we often try to promote vigorous debate, and some of those debates will stir readers’ emotions. If letters to the editor (as well as unprintable responses) are any indication, our recent comments on American football [5 , 6] certainly have done that. But these pages can also bring us together, by focusing on what we share, what unites us, and what is special about our profession.

With that in mind, I’ll follow the lead of the New York Times, and seek amity by celebrating a few of my orthopaedic heroes, in the hopes that you will write in and share stories about yours.

Frederick A. Matsen III MD continues to inspire with his stamina and his continued passion for all elements of academic-orthopaedic mission, but makes my “heroes” list for reasons having more to do with leadership and empathy. Prior to making any important decision in his role as department chair, I recall him explicitly identifying the key principles involved, and holding them against the principles his department held dear. I had never seen someone approach decision-making quite so intentionally, and in doing so, he kept his group admirably on mission, while helping those disappointed with the result of a choice he’d made to understand why things didn’t go their way. Beyond that, by focusing on (and recognizing publicly) the positive qualities of even the most-complicated individuals, he helped the group recognize how each member brought value, while subtly nudging those challenging individuals to bring more “good stuff” and less tension to the team. Finally, Dr. Matsen is one of the most empathic people I’ve ever met. When I speak with him, I feel as though I am the only person in the world; others report the same experience.

Aaron G. Rosenberg MD and Joshua J. Jacobs MD are exemplars of academic and personal integrity; they also have contributed at the highest levels with their research and, in the case of Dr. Jacobs, with his service as past-president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. For me, though, they model how deeply compassionate two practice partners and friends can be. Before meeting them, I had never seen two men take such good care of one another, or care so deeply for each other. When I think of what kind of friend, partner, and man I want to be, I think about Aaron and Josh.

Thomas M. Coon MD makes my list for his creativity and pure technical skill. Given the controversies associated with “minimally invasive” surgical procedures of all sorts, one might question the decision to put a developer of such an approach to knee surgery on a “heroes” list. I won’t take sides in that argument. Rather, I list Dr. Coon here because of his approach to developing approaches: His inventiveness. In reimagining how TKAs can be done, he questioned everything, from what had been an accepted sequence of bone cuts, to the shape, size, and placement of retractors and cutting guides. As an important aside, I have seen many surgeons at work; Dr. Coon’s technical proficiency in the operating room is something to behold.

Susan A. Scherl MD helped me to mature as an adult learner by sharing a book with me, called Forgive and Remember, by Charles Bosk [2]. This book, but a wisp of a thing, packs a punch and is well worth a couple of nights’ attention. It describes the kinds of mistakes that surgical trainees can make, and why some lapses—and not necessarily the kinds one might think—are so much worse than others. Bosk’s description of what he called “quasi-normative error” opened my eyes to the gifts my teachers gave me each day in their offices and operating rooms (and showed me how tolerant some of them must have been to put up with me). Dr. Scherl also was one of the early researchers who explored gender issues in our specialty, more than 20 years ago. It seems like more of these problems should have been solved by now.

Gary E. Friedlaender MD leads with his humanity in all that he does, and helps those around him to remember theirs. Most orthopaedic programs have journal clubs; when Dr. Friedlaender was chair at Yale, he led a book club [1]. He writes a cherished and much-loved column here at CORR®, called “Art in Science”. His first of those columns described a program called Enhancing Observational Skills [4] that his wife, Linda (Curator of Education at the Yale Center for British Art), had pioneered. Linda’s program—like the column they write together—uses art to help healers become more-empathic observers of the human beings they care for.

CORR would love to publish short vignettes along the above lines about your orthopaedic heroes; share them via letters to the editor to That is, as long as they have no connection to the Yankees. I’m a Mets fan.

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1. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 2014 AAOS Tipton leadership award: Gary E. Friedlaender, MD. Available at Accessed on December 14, 2017.
2. Bosk C. Forgive and Remember, 2nd Ed. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press; October 15, 2003.
3. Editorial Board of the New York Times. Where have all our heroes gone? New York Times. Available at: Accessed December 18,2017.
4. Friedlaender GE, Friedlaender LK. Art in Science: Enhancing observational skills. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2013;471:2065–2067.
5. Leopold SS, Dobbs MB. Editorial: Orthopaedic surgeons should recommend that children and young adults not play tackle football. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2016;474:1533–1537.
6. Leopold SS, Dobbs MB, Gebhardt MC, Gioe TJ, Rimnac CM, Wongworawat MD. Editorial: Do orthopaedic surgeons belong on the sidelines at American football games? Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2017;475:2615–2618.
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