Getting-It-Straight-book-cover_240In 2008 the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons celebrates its 75th anniversary. Since its inception in 1933, the exponential growth and achievements of the Academy have been nothing short of phenomenal. Few volunteer associations can claim the type of leadership position in a medical or surgical specialty that the AAOS has assumed in orthopaedic surgery. Therefore, its 75th anniversary offered an auspicious occasion to tell its story.

But why write a scholarly textbook not principally on the history of the Academy but also on the history of orthopaedic surgery over the last century? A simple answer to this question is that a history of the remarkable growth of our specialty and the academy’s role in that specialty over the last century has never been written. A historical text offers a wonderful perspective on where we have been and even perhaps, where we are headed. Young orthopaedists especially should benefit from reading this history of the changing burdens of different musculoskeletal diseases, the innovations, the occasional technological dead ends, the recurrent socioeconomic challenges, and the creative historical figures of our surgical specialty. A more practical answer to the question is that while much as been written on the origins and early years of orthopaedic surgery, little has been written about the amazing advances of the last century. Such classic historical texts as Bick’s Sourcebook of Orthopaedics, Keith’s Menders of the Maimed, Rang’s The Story of Orthopedics, and Peltier’s Orthopaedics – A History and Iconography provide extensive coverage of the early founders of the emerging specialty of orthopaedic surgery. Unfortunately, their coverage abruptly ends with the early twentieth century. None describe the critical role of the Academy during the period after 1930 when orthopaedic surgery blossomed into the premier surgical specialty. The real answer to the question is that the level of historical knowledge possessed by the current generation of orthopaedic surgeons is abysmal. As lifelong academic orthopaedic educators, we never cease to be amazed by the rudimentary level of understanding of young orthopaedic surgeons-in-training of the historical roots of modern orthopaedic care. Harry Truman purportedly said “nothing is new in this world but the history that you don’t know.” The purpose of this textbook is simply to enhance all of our perspectives on the rich history of orthopaedic surgery and its impact on our current practices. Henry Sherk, one of the elder scholars of our specialty, possesses a keen knowledge and insight into medical history that few orthopaedic surgeons can claim. His credentials as a medical historian are impeccable. He was an obvious choice to author this textbook. His previous publications in medical history range over such diverse topics as the histories of medical malpractice, military medicine, Prohibition and the roaring twenties, surgical anesthesia, smallpox epidemics, and numerous prominent medical figures. He served as historian for the Medical Societies of New Jersey, the Camden County Medical Society, and the Somerset County Medical Society. He is currently Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia.

Despite Dr. Sherk’s tireless efforts to be all inclusive in his coverage of Academy and orthopaedic history, there are some limitations to this textbook. The complexity and details of orthopaedic history preclude coverage of every important and interesting fact and trend in a single text. Many seminal events in our story have been passed over for lack of space. Our specialty growth over the last 100 years is attributable to the dedication and incremental advances inspired by thousands of practicing orthopaedic surgeons and researchers. Only a few can be mentioned here.

While drafts of the textbook were vetted by many individuals, historical documents are limited and their accuracy and interpretation are often open to debate. We ask that the readers recognize the problems of verifying many items from the records currently available.

Our Academy and our specialty should be sources of pride and satisfaction to the AAOS fellowship. This authoritative text provides an enjoyable read for all with an interest in our history. If it elevates the awareness of the reader to our origins, the many historical bumps in the road, and the incredible development of our specialty, then it will have met its purpose.

Robert W. Bucholz, MD

James Hamilton, MD

The Editors