The evolution of orthopedic surgery at the University of Kansas Medical Center closely parallels the history of the medical center itself. Although a basic science medical program had existed in Lawrence, Kansas, for some time, the roots of the Kansas University (KU) School of Medicine clinical program lay in three proprietary medical schools in the Kansas City area. These schools joined in 1905 to form the Kansas City area campus of the Medical School of the University of Kansas. During its first twenty years of existence, the medical school and hospital activities took place in two, and then three, small buildings on "Goat Hill", so designated because the incline to the facilities was significant and many complained it was more easily navigated by goats than people.
In the early years of the KU Medical School, student orthopedic lectures were given by part-time attending staff physicians whose orthopedic surgery experience and expertise varied greatly.
In 1924 the Kansas University Medical Center moved to a new "Bell Memorial Hospital," located several blocks south of the "Goat Hill" campus. This first building originally housed administration, library, operating room, private rooms, and wards. It also contained the emergency room and X-ray in the basement.
During the decades after 1930, there was a slow, gradual growth of KUMC. By 1950 the "corridor building," also known as "D" wing, was completed. The new space was important for orthopedics, because they were now assigned office and clinic areas in the basement of the corridor building, an ideal, strategic location adjacent to the new Emergency Room (ER) that, in turn, was located one floor directly below the X-ray department. In those days, there were no primary ER physicians and orthopedists were often among the first to be called in the care of patients with multiple injuries, including fractures.
In 1946, the orthopedic residency program at KU was initiated. But it was well into the 1960's before a national residency matching plan was put in place and the resident applicants were individuals from a wide range of age and experience. There were no contracts, and applicants were accepted into the program after a single interview with the program chairman, followed by a handshake and subsequent formal letter of acceptance.. By the late 60's the Section was approved to have two residents per year in the four-year residency training program.
In 1965, the orthopedic offices and clinic, along with other surgical subspecialties, were moved to the fifth floor of the outpatient Sudler building. These new facilities included a large conference room and private examining rooms, separated by walls rather than draw curtains.
During the 1970's and 1980's, subspecialties in orthopedic surgery grew and expanded across the United States and the world. Orthopedic surgeons were assuming major responsibility for treatment of fractures, which in the past were often managed by general surgeons. At the same time, orthopedic surgery was growing in scope and complexity signaling a new benchmark in the faculty recruitment and residency education at KU. With the development of many new and innovative instruments and treatment modalities such as arthroscopy, total joint replacement, spine instrumentation, knee ligament reconstruction, microvascular surgery and limb salvage procedures, the recruitment of full-time faculty members have been orthopedists with subspecialty fellowship training expertise.
As orthopedics became an increasingly popular surgical subspecialty, resident applicant numbers correspondingly increased.
In 1979, a new large clinical facility, officially named the University of Kansas Hospital was opened. The new operating rooms, clinical space and private patient rooms improved the workspace greatly. As a reflection of the growth of, and the demand for, orthopedic surgery, the Section was allocated two operating rooms daily and given first choice for a third room when available.
In 1987, orthopedic offices were moved from the fifth floor of the Sudler building into new space renovated from the surgical recovery room and postoperative intensive care unit on the fifth floor of the old Bell Memorial Hospital "E" building. The renovated office area also included a library, a large conference room, a computer workspace for the residents, and a patient record room.
In its illustrious history, the Department of Orthopedics at KU has provided a steady, outstanding orthopedic service to a great many people in this region. Experience in a wide range of orthopedic subspecialties has been developed in the department, including pediatric orthopedics spine surgery, sports medicine, hand and microvascular surgery, foot and ankle surgery, adult reconstruction, and musculoskeletal oncology. In addition, an excellent, well-rounded orthopedic training program has been developed that provides a steady stream of well-trained young orthopedic surgeons ready to enter any facet of academic or private orthopedic surgery. The department is very proud of the fact that since 1956, all orthopedic residency graduates have obtained board certification.
Note: A complete history, Evolution of an Academic Orthopedic Department, University of Kansas Medical Center 1905-2005, is available from the department.