Robert W. Bucholz, MD,


Published 7/1/2016
Terry Stanton

Former AAOS President Robert W. Bucholz, MD, Remembered by Family, Friends, and Colleagues

Asked to name the career achievement of which he was most proud, replied, "Waking up every day with the privilege of being an orthopaedic surgeon."

Dr. Bucholz, who passed away on May 20 at the age of 68 years from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is remembered as a surgeon and educator dedicated to his profession, as well as an individual loyal to his friends and devoted to his family—his wife, Marybeth Ezaki, MD, and their three daughters.

Dr. Bucholz served as the 72nd president of the Academy in 2004–2005. In an interview conducted by Lisa K. Cannada, MD, on the occasion of the AAOS's 75th anniversary, Dr. Bucholz spoke of his love for taking care of patients and for shepherding more than 150 residents whose training he oversaw during some 20 years as a program director and department chair at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern in Dallas.

"Medicine is the premier profession in the world, and orthopaedic surgery is the premier specialty within medicine," he said then. "We are privileged to be able to practice our profession. In return, all of our actions should be in the best interests of our profession."

Dr. Bucholz's professional legacy, Dr. Ezaki said, "will be the many residents he trained and taught by example." This legacy consists of "knowledge, hard work, dedication to one's patients, and ethical behavior at all times."

Drs. Bucholz and Ezaki were married for 42 years, raising three daughters and watching their first grandson take his first steps the week before Dr. Bucholz died. "Family was always Bob's first priority," Dr. Ezaki said. "He got the 'Big Picture' and was always planning the next adventure to make memories with and for his girls. They traveled the world together."

During the past year, she noted, Dr. Bucholz was able to walk his oldest daughter down the aisle at her wedding, saw his second daughter defend her PhD, and saw his youngest settle into a doctoral program in physical therapy.

"We remember him as vibrant and strong, off on another trip," Dr. Ezaki said.
Friends and colleagues remember Dr. Bucholz fondly and with admiration.

"Bob had an amazing gift for sizing up the situation regardless of how complex the interactions," recalled Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, who succeeded Dr. Bucholz as Academy president. "He hated wasting time at any event—at board meetings especially—and he could cut to the chase with the very best. He could find humor in almost any situation no matter how terrible it was, which made it more tolerable for all. He was a good person. I don't think he had a mean bone in his body."

"Bob Bucholz was a stellar fracture surgeon, a gifted medical editor, and an admired educator, but, above all, he was a great friend," said James D. Heckman, MD, AAOS president in 1998–1999. "We miss him greatly."

Dr. Bucholz grew up in Omaha, Neb., and attended Yale College and Yale School of Medicine. He completed his orthopaedic residency at Yale under Wayne O. Southwick, MD, a fellow Nebraskan. From there he moved to a position at UT Southwestern, where he spent his entire career. He became chair of the orthopaedics department in 1989 and held that post until 2006, when he stepped back to focus on his clinical practice in adult reconstructive orthopaedics.

He served in many orthopaedic organizations in addition to the Academy, including the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education Residency Review Board and the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Awards and recognition "were numerous," Dr. Ezaki notes, and he was a sought-after speaker on many topics. His research interests spanned basic science, bone ingrowth and graft substitutes, early animal models testing bone morphogenetic proteins in the treatment of nonunion, the role of smoking in delayed fracture healing, and most recently, the contribution of psychosocial issues to perceived patient reported outcomes following joint reconstruction surgery.

Dr. Ezaki notes that her husband staffed the Parkland Hospital "Ortho B" service from 1979 to 2015, never rotating off, and was a champion of care to the underserved.

He also had a career-long affiliation with The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery (JBJS), serving for 27 years as deputy editor, first for trauma and then for reconstruction. JBJS named its journal club in his honor. Dr. Bucholz hosted a residents' journal club in his home each month. The last one of these meetings took place 3 days before he died, Dr. Ezaki said.

In his memory, Dr. Bucholz requested support for the Bob Bucholz Scholarship Fund at Colorado Outdoor Education Center, Sanborn Western Camps, PO Box 167, Florissant, Colo. 80816. For more information, visit