The AAOS presented the William W. Tipton Jr, MD, Leadership Award to Andrew J. Weiland, MD, at the 2015 Annual Meeting.
The Tipton Leadership Award recognizes Academy members who have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities that have benefited the orthopaedic community, patients, and/or the American public. The award honors and celebrates the life, accomplishments, and qualities of the late Dr. Tipton, an orthopaedic surgeon, educator, and former AAOS chief executive officer.
“This award has special meaning to me because I was friends with Bill Tipton,” said Dr. Weiland. “He was a wonderful man, who had a passion for education, the orthopaedic profession, and service.”
Dr. Weiland is considered a pioneer and one of the nation’s preeminent experts in microvascular surgery of the hand. He is an attending orthopaedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery and professor of orthopaedic surgery and professor of surgery (plastic) at the Weill Cornell Medical College, both in New York City.
“There is no question that Dr. Weiland is one of the true pioneers in the field of microsurgery,” said James Urbaniak, MD, the Virginia Flowers Baker professor of orthopaedic surgery at Duke University. “Dr. Weiland has the vision to see the enormous value of this skilled technique in the reconstruction of severely traumatized extremities. He remains dedicated and committed to the expansion and teaching of this clinical specialty to the benefit of numerous patients as well as the clinical training of scores of both orthopaedic and plastic surgeons.”
In sponsoring Dr. Weiland’s nomination for the award, Peter J. Stern, MD, of the University of Cincinnati, wrote: “Dr. Weiland understands the importance of respect for dissenting opinions, building consensus through open discussions, listening and acknowledging the concerns of others, and being inclusive rather than exclusive.”
Dr. Weiland earned his medical degree from Wake Forest University. He completed a general surgery internship at the University of Michigan and an orthopaedic surgery residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 1976, he joined the Johns Hopkins orthopaedic staff as chief of hand surgery. He is past president of the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), the American Orthopaedic Association, and the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. He also is a former AAOS treasurer and serves on the board of trustees of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.
Dr. Weiland is soon to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his marriage to Nancy G. Weiland, who holds a PhD in neuroscience. Their two children are physicians; Daniel E. Weiland, MD, is an orthopaedic surgeon, and Sarah Weiland Holland, MD, is a plastic surgeon. The Weilands have six grandchildren.
In an interview with AAOS Now, Dr. Weiland reflected on his career and legacy of professional involvement.
AAOS Now: What does leadership mean to you?
Dr. Weiland: To be a leader, you need to engage the people you are trying to lead, and that means involving them in all the decision-making processes that will result in the improvement of whatever organization you are leading. Participation and engagement of your membership and the people on your committees are the keys.
AAOS Now: What motivated you to become involved in organizational work?
Dr. Weiland: The person who first got me involved was Dr. Urbaniak, who then was the chief of orthopaedics at Duke University. He was involved in microsurgery and hand surgery. He really showed me the joy he took from participating in organizations. I joined some committees and enjoyed interactions with stimulating, intelligent people who were really motivated to improve the specialty.
AAOS Now: What was your background growing up, and what brought you into medicine?
Dr. Weiland: My father was first-generation born in the States; his parents came from the Ukraine. He was a lawyer and then a judge. In school I gravitated to the sciences. I felt that medicine was something where I could use my skills and do something good for society.
AAOS Now: How did you come to focus on hand surgery?
Dr. Weiland: You have to be at the right place at the right time! I was fortunate enough to embark on a hand fellowship with Harold E. Kleinert, MD, in Louisville, Ky. That was the epicenter for microsurgery, which was just in its infancy—with replantations and the first free-tissue transfer in the 1970s. I was stimulated by that. I was fortunate to have pretty good surgical skills and was able to make some advances in tissue transfer and bone grafts. We studied the basic physiology of vascularized tissue transfer. I had fantastic mentors.
The biggest challenge was to become proficient yourself. It’s not an easy technique to learn. You’re sewing vessels one millimeter in diameter with sutures that are about as thick as a human hair. And you really have to master anatomy. I remember that before we did the first vascularized bone graft at Hopkins, we dissected about 40 cadavers.
AAOS Now: How do you assess the state of volunteerism today?
Dr. Weiland: Physicians are stressed for time, but I actually don’t think it has changed all that much. Residents and fellows are still getting involved in various organizations, including the Academy and specialty groups. The Academy encourages young people to become involved, with resident-category memberships. Possibly you see less academic productivity and research from clinicians due to the economic strain of the reimbursement systems, but at our institution younger people are all getting involved in national organizations and volunteering their time. I am optimistic that that will continue. I would say, don’t have goals to be a leader or president in an organization or society. Enjoy the journey. Things evolve.
If you work hard and demonstrate passion, there is a natural occurrence of progress. Carving out the time is a challenge, but busy people seem to get the most things done. You have to set priorities; your family and your children should be number one, and they have always been for me. Then patients. And then involvement in organizations. There is enough time in the week to do that.
AAOS Now: What is it about orthopaedic surgery that attracts so many of its practitioners to become involved as volunteers and leaders?
Dr. Weiland: It’s a fulfilling specialty. We help people get back in the game. Most of us are passionate about what we do, and that leads us to become involved in various organizations. I don’t know anyone who is not an AAOS member, and the vast majority of hand surgeons are members of ASSH.
Terry Stanton is a senior science writer for AAOS Now. He can be reached at email@example.com