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Distinguished orthopaedist served as AAOS president in 1979

AAOS Now

Published 1/1/2017
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Alexander R. Vaccaro, MD, PhD, MBA

Remembering John J. Gartland, MD


A giant in the field of orthopaedic surgery, John J. Gartland, MD, died of heart failure on Nov. 21, 2016. He was 98 years old.

Dr. Gartland was an internationally respected orthopaedic surgeon, scholar, and educator. He was also a highly valued member of the AAOS as well as the Thomas Jefferson University family.

A 1944 graduate of Jefferson Medical College (now Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University), Dr. Gartland served for 2 years in the U.S. Army before returning to complete his residency in orthopaedic surgery at Jefferson and the New York Orthopaedic Hospital, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. At Jefferson, he rose from instructor in orthopaedic surgery in 1952 to associate professor in 1967, and later earned the distinction of being named the James Edwards Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery in 1970 and chair of the department, a post he held until 1985. He also served as president of the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Orthopaedic Societies and president of the Alumni Association of the Jefferson Medical College. In 1979, he served as president of the AAOS.

After he retired as chair of orthopaedic surgery at Jefferson in 1985, Dr. Gartland spent the next 23 years as the hospital and university's medical editor, helping students and colleagues with their papers, projects, and articles before finally retiring in 2008 at age 90.

The orthopaedic department at Jefferson was considerably strengthened during Dr. Gartland's tenure. He increased the number of full-time faculty to complement the volunteer faculty, and restructured the residency program. Throughout his career, he helped guide the direction of orthopaedic surgeons around the world. His work and dedication will not soon be forgotten. Those of us who had the privilege of his friendship outside of work were humbled by his kindness and compassion.

As Dr. Gartland once remarked, "We are in the business of making tomorrow—tomorrow's science, tomorrow's preventive medical care, and tomorrow's doctors. That is what I hope our dedication is all about."

He will be greatly missed.

Alexander R. Vaccaro, MD, PhD, MBA, is president of the Rothman Institute and is the Richard H. Rothman Professor and Chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University.