At the conclusion of the Second World War, there were many returning young orthopaedic surgeons who were eager for refresher courses and ongoing education in the rapidly expanding areas of orthopaedic surgery.
However, in fact, most of the continuing education in orthopaedics occurred at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The early members of the society claim that the genesis of the New England Orthopaedic Society occurred at the Palmer House in Chicago at the time of the 1947 Academy Meeting.
During the course of that meeting Dr. Russell Sullivan, Professor of orthopaedic surgery at Tufts and Senior Visiting Orthopaedic at the Boston City Hospital on the Sixth Surgical Service, discussed with Sir Reginald Watson Jones the idea of conducting a Fracture Course in Boston in 1948. Dr. Joseph Shortell, Chief of the Sixth Surgical Service at Boston City Hospital, and other staff members including Drs. Charles Bradford, Kenneth Kuhns, Robert Ulin and Albert Aitken, provided enthusiastic support.
A highly successful conference was held in Boston immediately preceding the Combined Meeting of the English Speaking orthopaedic Associations which was held in Quebec, Canada. A second Fracture Course was held two years later by the Sixth Surgical service, at which time Mr. John Charnley was the featured Guest Speaker.
Although the program was highly successful, many changes were occurring in the academic community. These were best summarized, according to Dr. Kilfoyle, by the comments of James Mannery, Superintendent of the Boston City Hospital, who was seated at the head table at the General Alumni Meeting at the Harvard Club when the three medical schools in Boston were in keen competition with one another.
Dr. Mannery described medical school politics as "a room where every door was closed; where every knife was open; where maneuvers vied with maneuvers for the admiration of maneuvers, and where suddenly the lights go out and some son-of-a-bitch stole the fuse."
During those early years after the Second World War, Don Chrisman recalled that orthopaedic surgeons from Boston, traveled to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons meeting in Chicago via the New York Central overnight sleeper train. The train left Boston and in succession would pick up the contingent in Albany. During informal discussions after dinner in the club car, numerous individuals recalled Dr. Kilfoyle's efforts in organizing the early fracture courses in Boston.
Subsequently, Dr. Frank Pantalone introduced Dr. Paul O'Brien and Dr. Richard Kilfoyle to Dr. Alphonso Della Pietrea. Under the direction of the Daughters of Charity, The Carney Hospital established a teaching service in conjunction with Boston University under the guidance of Dr. C.J. Shea, Surgeon and Chief at the Carney Hospital, Dr. Lamar Soutter, Dean at Boston University and Dr. Richard Kilfoyle, Program Director at Carney Hospital.
With their cooperation and support, the first meeting of the New England Orthopaedic Society was held on Friday and Saturday, November 7th and 8th, 1958.
Dr. David Bosworth was the principal invited Guest speaker, who discussed the status of Iproniazid therapy for tuberculosis. Additional guest speakers included Drs. Charles Bradford, Otto Aufranc and Alfonso Della Pietra. The Society was off to a promising start with an enthusiastic response from all of the orthopaedic surgeons who attended the meeting.
The Daughters of Charity provided a remarkable asset, namely Sister Monica, head of the Dietary Department, who excel in preparing culinary delights. Dr. Kilfoyle described the annual luncheon buffets and later the dinners as being of a quality "which would bring a tear to the eye of Louis XIV had he lived long enough to see the day". The printed programs of that are referred to the luncheons as "Dejeuner Delicieux, LaSoeur Monique".
Many younger members of the Society have questioned the origin of the Irish blackthorn stick, which is emblematic of the Society and has been given to each visiting guest professor for the past thirty years.
Dr. Walter P. Blount was the guest speaker at the 4th Annual Meeting of the Society shortly after he had given his Academy Presidential Address entitled "Don’t Throw Away the Cane". It was only natural that the Society’s officers practicing at the Carney Hospital which had a strong Irish constituency, would think of the Gaelic Emblem which incorporated the basic orthopaedic principles so eloquently described in Dr. Blount’s Presidential Address.
The early founders of the society, however, were immediately faced with the dilemma of how to incorporate an authentic aura of academic credibility to go with the Award of the Blackthorn Stick. These men, being both erudite and respected orthopaedic surgeons were also men of great vision who recognized that Andrew Carney, for whom the Carney Hospital was named, was born in the Town of Skibbereen located in Cork, Ireland.
According to Dr. Kilfoyle, the town is best described as "A town which when you have found it in your travels you think you are not there, but you are"". He further indicated that the University of Skibbereen is a "less tangible entity" which has been thought by skeptics rather not to exist or to be "conducted by the little people, for the little people, and of the little people". To again use Dr. Kilfoyle’s words, "The University has been likened to the Irish Navy: it is there. But the Irish are too cute for us and it is well-concealed".
With continued success the organization grew with the assistance of Drs. Della Pietra, O’Brien, Kilfoyle and Chrisman. By-laws were established shortly thereafter, which initiated the Annual Spring Meeting, which would rotate through each of the New England States in succession.
On May 10, 1963, Dr. Della Pietra organized the first Annual Spring Meeting at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Connecticut, with the principal guest speaker being Anthony DePalma. His major talk was "An anatomical study of the physiological degenerative changes that take place in the acromioclavicular and sternoclavicular joint with aging". Subsequent spring meetings have been held each year ranging from the Samoset Inn in Rockland, Maine and the Balsams in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire in the North to Mystic, Connecticut, in the South and from the Basin Harbor Club in Vergennes, Vermont to innumerable resort inns and hotels throughout New England eastward to Cape Cod.
The Society organized its first European trip in 1968 when members visited Ireland (naturally), Scotland, where they were hosted by J.I.P. James at Edinburgh’s Princess Margaret Rose Hospital and, then, on to Paris where they were entertained by Professor Robert Judet. A second trip was held in 1970, with members traveling to Switzerland and Vienna followed by a cruise among the Greek Islands, under the direction of Otto Russe. A third trip was held in February 1990, in Austria, when members traveled to Kitzbuhel in the snow covered Austrian Alps with visits to Salzburg and Munich.
The 25th Annual Fall Meeting was the last to be held at the Carney Hospital. Dr. Charles A. Rockwood was the featured guest speaker; subsequently, the venue of the fall meeting was moved to the Braintree area in the Boston suburbs. Since 1987, the meeting has been held in Downtown Boston at various centrally located hotels. In 1991, the Board of Directors in recognition of the long years of Dr. Kilfoyle’s service and support to the society established the Kilfoyle Award Paper. This Award is presented annually to the resident submitting the best paper relating to the clinical practice of orthopaedic surgery.
The Society remains committed to providing a forum for the practicing orthopaedic surgeons of the New England Region to present papers to their colleagues as well as to have the privilege of meeting and learning from the leading orthopaedic surgeons in this country and abroad.
I am indebted to the collected thoughts, recollections and collected documents from Drs. Paul O’Brien, Donald Chrisman and Richard Kilfoyle whose contributions made this brief history possible.
John V. Banta, M.D.