Dedication to Louis Meeks, MD.
By: Jeff Zilberfarb, MD.

It is with great pleasure that I agreed to write this dedication of this year’s Journal to my practice partner and friend, Louis Walter Meeks, aka “Papa Lou.” I first met Louie at the old Beth Israel Hospital when I was interviewing there in 1995 after finishing my Shoulder Fellowship. I was immediately impressed with this “larger than life” character whose enormous smile and even larger hands made such an indelible impression on me. Even though I was being interviewed to do Sports and Shoulder surgery he was most welcoming to me rather than being at all threatened by the new young guy. I soon learned that this was just “Louie being Louie.”

After I accepted the position in the academic department he invited my wife and I to his house in Newton, otherwise known by our residents as “Party Central.” We met his beautiful, most intelligent wife, Berneda, along with one of his 5 equally gorgeous and extremely intelligent children, Laura, who at that time was a high school senior (since then she has graduated from Harvard Med and the MIT Sloan Management School). We were amazed by the hundreds of family photographs throughout their home documenting family events such as skiing trips to Aspen, scuba diving in the Caymans, white water rafting in the Colorado river, etc. Several hours later my wife and I stumbled home. We didn’t think we had drank very much but later realized that miraculously our wine glasses were never empty throughout the evening! This pattern remained in effect over the next 13 years for every party that we ever attended at his house. These parties have often included many influential members of Boston society, including Bank and University Presidents, Joan Kennedy and other “movers and shakers.” He is by far the most well connected person I know.

I have asked several residents to describe how Louie has influenced then throughout their training and they responded by saying that he is a superb teacher, friend, host, mentor, surgeon, Doctor and family man. When one examines his life story the details are most illuminating.

Louie was born the second child of four in a Michigan farm family. His early childhood was typical of that life with early morning chores. During these years his strong work ethic and discipline were forged. He says of that time “the sun never caught Louie Meeks in bed.”

He attended Albion College, a superb small liberal arts college, graduating in 1959, and was accepted to the University of Michigan Medical School, graduating in 1963. He began his Orthopedic training there, interrupted for two years by his being drafted into the Army in 1966. He was married to his first wife at that time and had two small children. He spent one year in Vietnam as Commanding Officer for the southern half of South Vietnam (Gus White, another Michigan alumni, was the Commanding Officer for the northern half of South Vietnam). He relates that this was by far the busiest, most educational and most emotional period in his career. Not only was he performing life-saving trauma and orthopedic surgical procedures daily on 18-year-old young men but also involved in developing new vascular reconstruction procedures with Dr Norman Rich, a pioneer in this field. Louie agrees with Hippocrates who said “the training of a surgeon should take place on the battlefield.”

He spotted Berneda in a parking lot in Ann Arbor and after trying to get her to go out on a blind date with him for 6 months she eventually capitulated and after a 6 week courtship they wed in 1969. They now have three grown children, all of whom graduated from Ivy League colleges with successful careers.

In 1970 he began working in private practice in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor Michigan. Along with Lanny Johnson, he was one of the first orthopedic surgeons in America to perform arthroscopic knee surgery, but was roundly criticized by the local medical establishment for performing what they called “surgery under the sheets,” as the original arthroscopes had only one eyepiece for the surgeon and no video monitors. Along with Lanny he developed one of the first arthroscopic instructional courses in America.

In 1974 he received one his multiple career teaching awards as the “Outstanding Surgery Instructor” by the University of Michigan Senior Medical School Class. After 25 years of successful private practice, including being named President of the Michigan Orthopedic Society, he was asked by his friend Dr Gus White at the BI to become acting Surgeon in Chief, a position he held from 1990-1992. During this time he also did a Spine Fellowship under Dr. White and concurrently was Chief of Sports Medicine. He was the first surgeon at the BI to perform arthroscopic outpatient ACL reconstructions. In 1994 the residents presented him with a plaque thanking him for taking them “out of the penalty box” with the new Sports Rotation at the BI. Since then this rotation has been consistently ranked at or near the top for all resident rotations in the Harvard program. In 1996 he left the academic group to open a very busy private practice on Beacon Street in Brookline. I joined him there in 1997, with Dr. Lars Richardson joining the group in 2001.

While practicing at the BI he has been earned many additional teaching awards, including the Daniel Federman Outstanding Medical Student Teaching Award in 2000. One of his proudest moments occurred in 2001 when he was presented the “Golden Apple Award” as the best teacher in the Harvard Combined Orthopedic residency program. Throughout his long career he has especially enjoyed mentoring medical students and residents, and has inspired many residents to specialize in Sports Medicine. Asked why he enjoys teaching so much he’ll tell you “when you teach a little bit of yourself lives on.” He says, “ I have always thought of myself as a teacher first.”

Another proud moment for him was when one of his sons, Jimmy, was presented a “Heroes among us” award by the Celtics at the Garden. Jimmy, a Harvard graduate, volunteered to join the Army immediately after 9/11. He was deployed to Iraq and while there suffered severe injuries when his HUMVEE was hit by an IED. He came home for a couple of months to have surgery and to recuperate. Although he could have finished his Army obligation by working in a cush job at the Pentagon he wanted to rejoin his men in Iraq, so he volunteered to go back to Iraq. While there Louie had many sleepless nights, often thinking about the many young men he had taken care of while in Vietnam, but would not prohibit Jimmy from doing what Jimmy felt he had to do. Fortunately, Jimmy came home without further injury.

During the past 18 years Louie has been an enormously important influence on hundreds of Harvard medical students and residents, along with many international students, and is highly esteemed as a role model for how to live one’s life, balancing work and family responsibilities.

PATRIOT, TEACHER, LOVER OF LIFE.

Here’s to you, Louie!!




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