Dedication to James R. Kasser, MD.
By: John Emans, MD.
Childrens Hospital, Boston
The Harvard Orthopedic Journal symbolizes much that is good about the Harvard Combined Orthopedic Residency Program. Our residents historically achieve a remarkable blend of learning, patient care and meaningful research. It is fitting that this year’s Journal is dedicated to Dr. Jim Kasser. Like the resident accomplishments demonstrated in the Journal, Jim Kasser has successfully blended the best in pediatric orthopedic patient care, teaching and clinical research.
At Children’s we still feel that residents and fellows are our most important responsibility and that quality postgraduate education is the only way to optimize care for the largest number of children. Jim has exemplified this through didactic teaching, creation of resident focused textbooks, support of resident and fellow research projects and always making time to discuss ideas, patient problems and life in general with
trainees. He has been a tireless advocate for the teaching and learning component of the residency during a period when the service component has threatened to take over too much of the resident’s time.
Hard work and long hours are a Kasser trademark. No one (not even the most eager resident) is at the hospital earlier than Jim. Jim tells stories of Zeke Zimbler making rounds at Tufts with a flashlight after midnight, but we think Jim gets to the hospital earlier and puts in more hours. His work ethic permeates the department, and one resident quipped that the department motto should be ‘ETS’ or ‘education through service’. Only for a few less inclined to hard work did this acronym mean ‘education through suffering’.
Direct, personalized involvement in all facets of patient care is also a Kasser trademark and his style has stuck with many of his trainees. Unlike many department chiefs, Jim continues with a full patient load of both the incredibly complex and the mundane aspects of pediatric orthopedics. As a result, his advocacy for pediatric orthopedics at all levels is grounded in the reality of both tertiary and everyday orthopedics.
Jim is the quintessential multi-tasker. During college summers he prepped as a construction foreman, honing his skills for doing seven things at once. During his time as chief he has managed departmental, ABOS, AAOS, POSNA and HCORP duties all at once while writing OKU’s and Rockwood and Green. More recently he has also taken on the Surgeon-in-Chief job for Children’s Hospital, adding another whole layer of complexity to his existence. His penchant for many things at once is reflected in his CV, with publications on
infection, hip disorders, spine, bone dysplasias and orthopedic education. Pediatric orthopedics has been described as the specialty with the most interest in all parts of the musculoskeletal system, and his academic accomplishments reflect this.
While chief of the department of orthopedic surgery at Children’s Hospital, Jim has presided over a remarkable expansion of the department at Children’s at a time when there has been a parallel growth in the subspecialty of pediatric orthopedics nationwide. Locally at Children’s and throughout the world, we
have gone from a smaller group of pediatric generalists to a large group which includes pediatric sub-specialists, and along the way maintained friendships and mutual respect for the ideas and productivity of others.
Children’s was not always so peaceful: Jim came to Children’s in the early 80s, recruited by Paul Griffin to help create a new department while the old department members were at odds with the hospital. He found himself supporting a foundation handicapped from the outset. As testimony to their leadership ability, Jim was able to create with John Hall an enduring pediatric group which remains successful to the present. Based on a democratic structure, Jim has done a superb job of leading
the group while not dictating. He encourages respectful interaction at all levels and fosters intellectual disagreement without rancor. Nowhere else in Boston orthopedics is there such freedom of thought, while still being productive. I and others are grateful to have been part of the department at Children’s during the period of Jim’s tenure as staff and chief.
Jim’s energies have allowed for a vigorous family. Wife Candace, daughters Susanna and Molly and now grandchildren occupy a preeminent spot on the multi-tasking hierarchy. All of us in the department and all of Jim’s trainees owe them a debt of gratitude, as I am sure that time spent with us has been time not spent with them.
I am delighted that this issue of the Orthopaedic Journal at Harvard Medical School has been dedicated to Dr. James Kasser. I am certain he will be particularly grateful for the recognition by Harvard residents that this dedication signifies. Jim will thank all of the resident staff for the opportunity to teach and may even quote himself and suggest that "people are our most important product".