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In Memoriam: John McCulloch, MD, FRCSC 1938–2002

Fraser, Robert, MD

In Memoriam: John McCulloch

From the Department of Orthopaedics & Trauma, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, Australia.

Address correspondence to

Robert Fraser, MD

Department of Orthopaedics & Trauma

Royal Adelaide Hospital

Level 4 Bice Building, North Terrace

Adelaide, SA 5000 Australia


On March 14th, as a result of a skiing accident in Colorado, the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine (ISSLS) lost one of its most distinguished members.

John McCulloch was born in Canada in 1938 of Scottish descent. He graduated in Toronto, Canada, and his training in spinal surgery included a year as a fellow with Ian Macnab, with whom he formed a close and lasting friendship. Before his untimely death, John was working as a spine surgeon at the Denver Orthopedic Clinic and was Medical Director of the Microsurgical Unit at the Presbyterian St Luke’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado. He previously practiced in Akron, Ohio, for 19 years and before that at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto for 12 years.FIGURE



John was actively involved in the ISSLS from the time he became a member in 1975. He was not one to seek high office, preferring to devote his time to patient care, education, and research. He rarely missed an annual meeting and presented papers on a wide range of topics. In 1979, he received the first Volvo Award for his research on nonorganic signs. Last year, the North American Spine Society awarded him the inaugural Wiltse Award for outstanding contributions to spine surgery.

John will be remembered mainly for his enormous contribution to medical education in the field of spine surgery. He developed close links with neurosurgeons and made a unique individual contribution to the teaching of microsurgical techniques. He wrote and edited three major textbooks on microsurgery and collaborated with Ian Macnab to revise his classic book on backache. He was a prodigious writer who frequently worked well into the night on his projects: 47 scientific papers, 7 books (with 3 in preparation), 39 book chapters, 8 instructional videotapes for the AAOS, and 304 scientific presentations and instructional course lectures. But, even more importantly, he was a passionate personal tutor who left all of those who had the privilege of training under him with indelible and affectionate memories.

John is survived by his beloved wife, Barb, his daughters, Catherine and Jennifer, and his grandson Conor. In a tragic turn of events, the main reason for the move to Denver in July 2001 was to enable John and Barb to be closer to their children and grandson and to devote more time to what had been their holiday pursuits for many years.

On behalf of all members, the ISSLS has expressed its deepest sorrow and its sympathy to his family.

Colleagues of the late Dr. McCulloch have established the John A. McCulloch Memorial Fund for the specific purpose of establishing and maintaining a “McCulloch Center” of learning resources concerning the spine and its conditions. The Center will be within the Denver Medical Library at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver. It will contain the most current materials in a variety of formats for clinicians (Denver Medical Library) and the lay public (DML’s Family Health Library). Denver Medical Library will also maintain a retrospective collection of Dr. McCulloch’s publications. For more information, please contact Ms. Betsy Annesser at (303) 839-7273.

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.