From the Crippled Children’s Hospital to more than $1 million in grants
How did a national women’s sorority come to establish an annual award to recognize achievements in orthopaedic research? It started with two women named Betty, both members of the Kappa Delta Sorority.
Elizabeth Corbett Gilbert, the first Betty, was president of the National Kappa Delta Sorority in 1916. She saw philanthropy as an important priority for Kappa Delta, but World War I delayed her hopes of starting a major philanthropic effort.
Helping crippled children
The first philanthropy “adopted” by Kappa Delta was the Crippled Children’s Hospital, located near the College of William and Mary in Virginia. The hospital, which had been established by William T. Graham, MD, grew out of a clinic Dr. Graham held in the basement of his home, where visiting nurses would bring children to him for care. After Virginia was hit particularly hard with a polio epidemic in 1919, Dr. Graham’s clinic became the Crippled Children’s Hospital.
In 1921, Mrs. Gilbert shared her altruistic goals with the Kappa Delta National Council. “Let us prove to the world that service is synonymous with the Greek-letter name we love” she said. “We need some concrete means of giving back to the world in service what has been given us through friendship.”
After thoroughly investigating a number of possible charitable organizations, the council recommended adopting the Crippled Children’s Hospital as a “national philanthropy,” and the Kappa Delta membership voted to fund two beds at the hospital at an annual cost of $600.
The second “Betty” spearheads the first award
Elizabeth Winston Lanier, the second Betty, joined the Alpha Pi chapter of the Kappa Delta Sorority at The College of William and Mary in Virginia in 1928. A few months after pledging, she made her first visit to the Crippled Children’s Hospital.
Ms. Lanier remained very active in Kappa Delta throughout her life. In 1937, she was appointed treasurer of the Hospital Committee. As a volunteer at the Crippled Children’s Hospital, she had been deeply affected by the many children with deformed limbs and physical disabilities. She knew that the plight of these children would not change without orthopaedic research. But grants for research did not exist at that time.
In 1943, she was appointed as Kappa Delta National Chapterian and in this position she proposed that the sorority establish an annual orthopaedic research grant. Ann Doner Vaughan, Kappa Delta’s national president (1945-1947), worked with Ms. Lanier to turn the dream of an orthopaedic research grant into a reality.
At the 1947 Kappa Delta Golden Anniversary Convention, Elizabeth Winston Lanier, then Kappa Delta’s national president, announced a $1,000 annual award for orthopaedic research. The sorority worked with the AAOS to establish guidelines and an application process.
The first “Kappa Delta Research Fellowship in Orthopedy” was presented to Marshall R. Urist, MD, in 1950.
In 1980, Ms. Lanier presented the first Elizabeth Winston Lanier Orthopaedic Award. “I was always impressed and proud of Kappa Delta’s part in this wonderful work that was being done to alleviate so much suffering,” she said. “I was greatly interested in expanding our work in this field. That I had a part in doing this has always been a great satisfaction to me.”
The “Nobel Prize” of orthopaedic research
Today, the Kappa Delta sorority funds three orthopaedic research grants of $20,000 per year. Two of the annual awards are named for the national presidents who made this funding a reality—Elizabeth Winston Lanier and Ann Doner Vaughan. The third grant is the “Young Investigator’s Award” for researchers younger than age 40 years.
Often referred to as the Nobel Prize of orthopaedic research, the Kappa Delta Orthopaedic Research Awards have been presented to researchers in a variety of orthopaedic disciplines. They have recognized key discoveries pertaining to bone grafting, treatment of polio, surgical correction of scoliosis, knee replacement, prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, arthroscopic surgery, and many other leading orthopaedic advancements.
Since the inception of the Kappa Delta awards, more than $1 million in orthopaedic research funding has been presented. Many recipients have said that their award strongly influenced their decision to continue in the field of orthopaedic research.
The orthopaedic research awards are only one of four national philanthropies that Kappa Delta Sorority supports. It is no wonder that Kappa Delta is known as “The Philanthropy Sorority.”
Annie Hayashi is the senior science writer at AAOS Now. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org