First African-American AAOS president is devoted to educating, inspiring others


Published 4/1/2016
Jennie McKee

E. Anthony Rankin, MD, Receives Diversity Award

When E. Anthony Rankin, MD, arrived at his first AAOS Annual Meeting in 1967, he found only two African-American orthopaedists in attendance. Back then, there were only about 10 board-certified African-American orthopaedic surgeons practicing in the United States. Spurred on by this lack of diversity, Dr. Rankin—who became the Academy's first African-American president in 2008—chose to devote a significant portion of his time and energy to making orthopaedics a more inclusive specialty.

During the AAOS Annual Meeting, the Academy presented Dr. Rankin with the 2016 Diversity Award in recognition of more than 40 years of educating and inspiring generations of minority and female orthopaedists and providing high-quality, culturally competent care to untold numbers of patients in the United States and around the world.

"Dr. Rankin has been an outstanding contributor in many important aspects of diversity," wrote Augustus A. White III, MD, PhD, recipient of the 2006 Diversity Award, in support of Dr. Rankin's nomination for the award. "He was a pioneer."

A record of excellence
Born in Holly Springs, Miss., in 1940, Dr. Rankin graduated with distinction from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., in 1961 and Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., in 1965. Dr. Rankin was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and was chosen as the Most Outstanding Senior Medical Student in both medicine and surgery.

After completing his internship and residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Dr. Rankin served as chief of orthopaedics at the 12th Evacuation Hospital and the 95th Evacuation Hospital in Vietnam, earning the Bronze Star Medal. Dr. Rankin, who achieved the rank of Major in the U.S. Army, earned the Army Commendation Medal during his time as chief of orthopaedics at Walson Army Hospital in Fort Dix, N.J.

In 1973, Dr. Rankin chose to join Charles H. Epps, MD, in practice and to take a post at Howard University, a historically African-American institution, with the goal of helping to increase diversity in the profession by mentoring others and treating a minority population. Currently a clinical professor of orthopaedic surgery, Dr. Rankin—who specializes in adult reconstruction and hand surgery—is also chief of orthopaedic surgery at Providence Hospital and clinical associate professor (community and family medicine) at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

Mentoring and volunteering
Dr. Rankin has made it his mission to provide guidance and support to premedical students, medical students, and scores of female and minority orthopaedic surgery residents, including Felasfa M. Wodajo, MD.

"Dr. Rankin has been instrumental to my career as an orthopaedic surgeon from the very beginning," wrote Dr. Wodajo, in support of Dr. Rankin's nomination. "I have no doubt that without Dr. Rankin, the door would have remained locked for this minority orthopaedic surgeon to enter the field.

"Throughout my training at Howard University," he continued, "it is no exaggeration to say that Dr. Rankin set a singularly high bar for personal excellence that affected every resident."

Some of Dr. Wodajo's most memorable patient interactions were with Dr. Rankin at the now-shuttered D.C. General Hospital, the only public hospital then operating in the District of Columbia. Dr. Rankin worked there part-time for 25 years before it closed in 2001.

"The patients were scared—and, almost invariably, confused," Dr. Wodajo remembered, of seeing patients at the hospital's pediatric hip clinic. "No doubt they expected yet another doctor to tell them something they did not understand, nor care if they did. Thus, for many of them it was clearly a surprise to be treated with dignity and respect, and to be given a chance to understand what their baby's hips needed to develop correctly. This was years before the term 'culturally competent care,' but it was something instinctive for Dr. Rankin."

 Dr. Rankin's talent for training residents has earned him numerous accolades. He received an annual Outstanding Teaching Award from the Howard University graduating residents for 12 years and was recognized by Georgetown University/Providence Hospital with their "Teaching Excellence Award" for 10 consecutive years. He is a five-time recipient of a certification of commendation from the District of Columbia.

Dr. Rankin's mentoring efforts go far beyond the institutions where he teaches and provides care. He has also been a mentor in programs of the J. Robert Gladden Society and the AAOS, including the Academy's Leadership Fellows Program (LFP). Dr. Rankin also volunteered his orthopaedic services at a homeless shelter once a month for 14 years and has traveled to Liberia, Ethiopia, and Malawi to provide urgently needed orthopaedic care to underprivileged patients.

Leading by example
Dr. Rankin has served in leadership positions in various professional organizations and societies, including assuming the AAOS presidency in 2008.

"Dr. Rankin spent 9 years as a member of the AAOS Board of Directors as a voice for minorities and females, and played a key role in helping establish the first Committee on Diversity as well as the LFP, which has been instrumental in recruiting highly qualified female and minority orthopaedic surgeons to positions of leadership," noted Dr. White, adding that Dr. Rankin served as cochair of the committee that then-AAOS President Douglas Jackson, MD, formed to begin diversity initiatives at the AAOS.

Dr. Rankin was raised in the segregated South by mother Robbie and father Edgar Everett Rankin, the latter of whom dreamed of a career in medicine when such a thing was nearly impossible for African Americans. Today, Dr. Rankin and his wife, Frances Espy Rankin, have a son, Marc E. Rankin, MD, who followed his father's example by becoming an orthopaedic surgeon.

For all of Dr. Rankin's many achievements, Robert D. D'Ambrosia, MD, recipient of the 2014 Diversity Award, calls Dr. Rankin "a very special kind of human being who has forged a path for many to follow."

Jennie McKee is managing editor of AAOS Now. She can be reached at

Previous Diversity Award Winners
2015       Bonnie Simpson Mason, MD
2014       Robert D. D'Ambrosia, MD
2013       Mark H. Gonzalez, MD
2012       Franklin H. Sim, MD
2011       Freddie Fu, MD
2010       Douglas W. Jackson, MD
2009       Ramon L. Jimenez, MD
2008       Claudia Thomas, MD
2007       Alvin H. Crawford, MD
2006       Augustus A. White III, MD, PhD
2005       Laura L. Tosi, MD
2004       Henry J. Mankin, MD
2003       Wayne O. Southwick, MD