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History and Founders

Our History

Orthopaedic Surgery was established in Milwaukee in 1909 when Dr. Frederick Julius Gaenslen started his practice in the new surgical specialty restricted to bone and joint disease. Dr. Gaenslen was Chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery of Marquette University School of Medicine from 1917-1920 and Orthopaedic Surgery was a Division of Surgery. (Dr. Gaeslen later became one of the seven original founders of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in 1931.) The department continued under the chairship of John W. Powers, MD from 1920-1938 and Herman C. Schumm, MD from 1938-1955.

In July 1946, two separate graduate medical education programs in orthopaedic surgery were established in Milwaukee: the Columbia Hospital Program (which included Milwaukee Children’s Hospital) and the Veterans Administration Hospital Program. Although the faculty of both programs were members of the Faculty of Marquette University School of Medicine, each program was administered separately.

The Columbia-Children’s Hospital Program was conceived and initiated by Drs. Walter P. Blount and Albert C. Schmidt, and was a three-year program encompassing adult and reconstructive surgery, skeletal trauma and fractures, children’s orthopaedics, and office orthopaedics. The program was governed by the unity of command of both Drs. Blount and Schmidt and staffed by the faculty at both Columbia and Children’s Hospital.

The Veterans Administration Program was administered by Dr. Peter L. Carnesale as Chief of Service, Dr. Albert C. Schmidt, as Senior Consultant, and Dr. Paul Collopy, J. Howard Johnson, and John O’ McCabe, as Junior Consultants. The Program was a two-year program of adult and reconstructive surgery, and skeletal trauma and fractures.

In 1956, the two residency programs combined to form the Milwaukee Orthopaedic Residency Program. The incorporation was a gradual melding of the needs and desires of the leaders of both programs. That same year, Dr. Blount was appointed chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Marquette University Medical School. The residency program received its initial accreditation in 1959.

Throughout the many changes to buildings, institutions, leadership and economics, one abiding core value persists. The faculty then and now loves teaching.

In 1968, Bruce J. Brewer, MD, became chair and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery became independent from the Department of Surgery. At the same time Marquette University terminated its sponsorship of the medical school with the school continuing as a private, national, freestanding institution. The school was ultimately named The Medical College of Wisconsin in 1970. 
At that time, the department had two to four full-time faculty housed at the Milwaukee County Hospital. These were generalists but contributed to the orthopaedic literature. Dr. Sam Nessman wrote on spinal fixation and was an early adapter of closed IM nailing. Dr. Roger Johnson published a seminal article, with Dr. Jack Mayfield (a resident at the time) on ligaments of the wrist and wrist injury patterns. Dr. Brewer was an early sports medicine pioneer caring for the Milwaukee Braves and Bucks. In 1970, the school changed its name to the Medical College of Wisconsin. In 1976, Dr. Brewer moved his community practice to “the county” establishing this campus as the true center of the program. The program continued to thrive in this pattern until the arrival of Dr. Brewer’s successor, Dr. John Gould.

In 1986 Dr. Gould arrived from Alabama with energy and a vision. The program went through an era of unparalleled growth in faculty and specialization. This was the “modernization” of the MCW program. The old “orange” and “gray” County Hospital services were replaced by specialty divisions. These divisions included hand, trauma, pediatrics, total joint reconstruction, foot and ankle, spine and sports. Oncology was added the early 2000’s. New fellowship-trained faculty were recruited and became the backbone of the department. In 1996 Dr. Gould left to return to Alabama.

After a lengthy search, Dr. Jeffrey Schwab was appointed chair. His tenure has been used to add depth to the divisions, develop the oncology program and to try and shepherd the program through some challenging times both financial and administrative. Today we have a financially, research active, thriving practice and Orthopaedic Surgery Residency Program.

Throughout the many changes to buildings, institutions, leadership, and economics, one abiding core value persists. The faculty then and now loves teaching. Today, the department has 22 full-time fellowship trained orthopaedic surgery faculty, 5 volunteer orthopaedic surgery clinical faculty, 5 primary care fellowship trained faculty, and 4 full-time research faculty. The education of residents is the activity that brings them to and keeps them at the Medical College, keeps them young at heart, keeps them challenged and keeps them in love with their job. We strive to provide an excellent opportunity for residents to become learners – of orthopaedic knowledge, technical skills, ethics, and bedside manner. The satisfaction of participating in the development of residents who become excellent orthopaedic surgeons has been and continues to be our biggest reward.

Department Chairs