Our History

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Orthopaedic surgery has a rich heritage at the University of Minnesota, dating back to the founding of the Medical School in 1888 when James E. Moore, MD, was the first professor of Orthopaedic Surgery.

treeIn 1897, Arthur Gillette, MD assumed his duties as clinical professor and director of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Minnesota. Gillette also established the first State Crippled Children’s Hospital in 1897, which after his death became Gillette Children’s Hospital—an ongoing and vital part of orthopaedic education and patient care throughout the 20th century. Upon the death of Arthur Gillette, Emil Geist, MD was the director or the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery in 1921.

Wallace Cole, MD became director of the division at the University in 1933 upon the death of Dr. Geist. Dr. Cole was also the chief surgeon at the Minneapolis Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children since its founding in 1923 and also provided Orthopaedic leadership at Gillette Childrens Hospital along with Carl Chatterton. The Orthopaedic Surgery residency started in 1939 with Harry Hall, MD as the first Cole Fellow at the UMN.

After World War II, the Orthopaedic residency was reorganized into two programs, one based at the University as a Division of General Surgery under Dr. Cole and one at the Veterans Hospital under the direction of Edward Evans, MD. Upon Dr. Cole’s retirement in 1956, Dr. Leonard Peltier served six months as the Acting Director of the Divison of Orthopaedic Surgery and was formally replaced by Dr. John Moe as professor and director of the residency at the University in 1957. Dr. Moe also became chief of staff at Gillette Childrens Hospital in 1958.

Dr. Robert Premer became the director of Orthopaedics at the VAMC in 1960 and directed that residency program in the Twin Cities. Residents in both programs received fracture training at Minneapolis General Hospital (1964= HCMC) or Ancker Hospital (1965= SPRH) in St. Paul. They were supervised by community faculty until 1968 when the era of full time chiefs of orthopaedic services began with Tom Comfort at St. Paul Ramsey and Ramon Gustilo at Hennepin County Medical Center.

In 1969, the division became an independent Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University with John Moe as professor and head. Educational experiences for residents continues at six hospitals with the introduction of sub-specialty experiences and leadership of key faculty at the University, VAMC, HCMC, SPRH, GCH, and the Minneapolis Shriners Hosptial. John Moe Spine Fellows program was established in 1971 and Dr. Moe retired after he was president of the American Orthopaedic Association in 1972. James House became interim chair of orthopaedic surgery until the appointment of Roby Thompson, Jr., MD, as professor and department chair in 1974.

Roby Thompson’s background as a talented scientist and clinician and his initiative in establishing academic research leaders became a major turning point in the departments’ role in this community and nationally. He furthered the educational mission of the department and in cooperation with the other program leaders encouraged orthopaedic research that added immensely to the academic stature of what was already a strong clinical training program. Cooperation with Drs. Gustilo and Kyle’s Biomechanics Lab at HCMC and the addition of Ted Oegema, PhD in Biochemistry and Jack Lewis, PhD in Biomechanical Engineering further enhanced the national recognition of the program and attracted significant research funding.

A Fellowship in Sports Medicine was established in 1984 with Elizabeth Arendt, MD as the first fellow. The University and VA residency programs merged in 1988 and the spirit of cooperation of the community faculty and the full time orthopaedic faculty at the six institutions has provided a well balanced environment for a comprehensive education in Orthopaedic Surgery and its’ subspecialties.