Dedication to James H. Herndon, MD.
Richard H. Gelberman, MD - St Louis, Missouri
On the morning of February 7, 2003, James H. Herndon gave his
Presidential address before the largest and most influential orthopaedic surgery
organization in the world. Reflected in his comments that morning, and in his
subsequent efforts, the goal was clear, to chart the course of that organization
in a new direction. "The truth is that the orthopaedic surgery being practiced in
this country is the finest in the world. The truth is that our medical school
faculty and residency faculty teach the best medical and surgical practices in
the world. The whole truth, and the painful truth, is that we can and we must do
better to serve our patients, our colleagues, and our profession." Over the next
year, Dr. Herndon embarked on a mission that resembled, in some ways, other missions
he had undertaken during his career. His overall goal was similar to his previous
ones---to raise the standard—to improve the way in which orthopaedic surgery is
practiced. His unusual tenacity for achieving that goal can be traced back to his roots.
Born in Los Angeles, California, on October 31, 1938, James H. Herndon
was raised and received his early education in Southern California. He attended Notre
Dame High School, a private Catholic school for boys in Sherman Oaks and then attended
Loyola University of Los Angeles, graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Science
degree in biology in 1961. The priests at both institutions had a remarkably strong
influence on Jim, encouraging him to work hard and to excel. Jim attended the
University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, where he was awarded the
Michael Carey and Edith and Carl Laskey Memorial Awards for exceptional achievement
in 1964 and 1965. Based on encouragement from the Dean to travel east to complete
his studies, Jim undertook a rotating internship and a year of general surgery
training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Subsequently, he entered
the orthopaedic surgery residency at the Harvard Combined Orthopaedic Training Program,
graduating in 1970. From 1971 to 1973, he served in the military at the Valley Forge
General Hospital as chief of the amputee service and of the orthopaedic clinic. Rising
to the highest level of leadership would become a recurring theme in Jim's career.
After a fellowship in hand surgery at the Roosevelt Hospital with Dr. J. William Littler
in 1973, Jim entered a practice of orthopaedic surgery in Grand Rapids Michigan at the
Blodgett Memorial Hospital. Shortly thereafter, he became Assistant Director of the
Orthopaedic Residency Program and, in 1977, became head of the Division of Orthopaedic
In 1978, Jim was recruited to the Rhode Island Hospital to become the
orthopaedic surgeon-in-chief. Quickly, he undertook the challenge of developing an
academic program at Brown by introducing a broad range of innovative offerings. He
began early morning emergency room teaching rounds, a program that continues to this
day. He developed the orthopaedic pathology teaching program, he initiated the first
medical student rotation on orthopaedics and he built a superior faculty by recruiting
effectively from around the country. Ultimately, he became known throughout the
institution as "TBG," –THE BIG GUY. Rumor has it that resi-dents always knew where he
was by sensing the fragrance of his Polo cologne. In fact, if the scent of Polo was
noted on an elevator, the residents became fearful that Dr. Herndon had reached the
floor for rounds ahead of them. In the end, Dr. Herndon converted a hospital-based
practice at the Rhode Island Hospital into a well-integrated and highly regarded
university program. In the words of one faculty member, "Dr. Herndon brought Brown
from the minor leagues into the major leagues in every possible way."
In 1990, while at Brown, Jim undertook and completed a Masters Degree
in Business Administration and Healthcare Management at Boston University. The knowledge
and skills that he gained from the MBA program, combined with his natural talents, would
prove to be of enormous benefit to Jim throughout his career.
In 1988, Jim was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh as the
David Silver Professor and Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Jim's
goal at Pittsburgh was clear from the start, to develop one of the finest orthopaedic
departments in the country. He pursued this mission in a systematic fashion by
developing and expanding the research laboratories, by assembling an exceptional,
nationally recognized faculty, by recruiting and selecting the highest caliber
residents, and by supporting the most productive of his faculty with the development
of flagship post-graduate fellowship programs. In the words of one faculty member,
"It was clear what Jim's expectations were—he expected the highest levels of
achievement from himself and from you. You felt as if you were part of the process,
as a faculty member you had a sense of ownership. He laid the issues out and then
encouraged you to give your opinions."
Jim left the University of Pittsburgh to become the Partners
Healthcare Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery in 1998. In 2001, he was awarded
the first William H. and Joanna A. Harris Professorship of Orthopaedic Surgery
at Harvard. While Jim's goal of unify-ing the orthopaedic clinical and research
programs at Harvard would not be realized fully, his impact on the program, in
education, research and clinical care, was substantial. He expanded existing
clinical programs, such as the Shoulder and Elbow Service at the MGH, and
introduced rigorous new programs, such as the Trauma Service under Dr. Vrahas'
leadership. Educational programs were enhanced and resident performance, as
evidenced by markedly improved in-training-examination scores, excelled similarly.
The research program reached a new level of excellence, and clinical productivity
saw phenomenal growth.
Whether serving as President of the ABOS, the AOA, or the Academy,
or fulfilling the role of educator, clinician, or researcher, Jim Herndon has
always taken the high road—pursuing the greatest levels of achievement personally,
and encouraging and empow-ering those around him to do the same. It is most
appropriate that this issue of the Harvard Orthopaedic Journal be dedicated to
Jim Herndon—and to his life-long goal, "...we can and we must do better to serve
our patients, our colleagues, and our profession."