Orthopaedic Surgery as a specialty in the Halifax region and at Dalhousie University began in the 1920’s with the arrival of Drs. Tom and Jack Acker, who had completed their training in New York City and Boston. Dr. Tom Acker established his practice in Orthopaedic Surgery in Halifax in July 1923, and the following year established the first Orthopaedic Clinic at the Dalhousie University Health Center. Subsequently his brother Jack joined him and they practiced together in Halifax for many years. Their initial practice specialized in polio deformities. They treated people throughout the Atlantic Provinces after arriving in various communities by coastal boat. On many occasions, the scheduled departure of the coastal boat was delayed in order to accommodate the doctor who was running late with his clinic.
As World War II ended in the mid l940’s, Dr. Bernard Miller joined the Acker brothers having completed his Orthopaedic training in Liverpool, England. This further enhanced the Orthopaedic presence on the Halifax medical scene.
Dr. Alvin J. Buhr arrived in Halifax after training in England and Toronto, in l961. Dr. Matt Erdogan closely followed him and Dr. Tony Trias, who brought with them, further up-to-date concepts in the management of musculoskeletal diseases. Dr. Erdogan had completed Fellowship training in Rochester, New York, and Dr. Trias in Oxford England and Chicago Illinois.
Dr. Albert Sinclair began practice in Halifax in the late 50’s and restricted his practice to Pediatric Surgery at the Children’s Hospital in the early 1960’s. Dr. Sinclair had completed his Orthopaedic training in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The modern era of Orthopaedic Surgery in Halifax and at Dalhousie began in l967 with the arrival of Dr. Reginald H. Yabsley. Dr. Yabsley, a native of Newfoundland, was a Dalhousie Medical School graduate who completed his Orthopaedic Residency in Toronto and underwent further training in Europe.
Two years later, in l969, Dr. David Petrie commenced practicing in Halifax at the Victoria General Hospital. Dr. Petrie had also completed his Orthopaedic training in Toronto under Dr. George Pennal.
Under Dr. Yabsley’s direction, as the first Chief of the modern Division of Orthopaedic Surgery at Dalhousie and of the Victoria General Hospital, the first training program in Orthopaedics, fully accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, was established in l970. The first graduates of the program completed their training in l972. There were two graduates in the first year, Drs. Roy Englund and Herb Mitton, both of whom have had long and productive careers in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick respectively.
In l975, Dr. William D. Stanish, another product of the Dalhousie Division of Orthopaedic Surgery Training Program, commenced his practice in Halifax. Dr. Stanish has become one of the leading Sports Medicine Physicians and Surgeons in North America and has represented Canada on two occasions as the Chief Physician of the Canadian Olympic Team.
The growth of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery in Halifax and at Dalhousie made terrific progress with the addition of Dr. J.C. Hyndman to Dr. Sinclair and Dr. Douglas Brown at the Children’s Hospital in l975. Their expertise in the sub-specialty of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery has been a vital component of the Residency Training Program ever since.
The Training Program continues without interruption until the present. Each year in November all graduates of the Training Program return to Halifax for the annual meeting of the Dalhousie Orthopaedic Club, affectionately known as the Yabsley Club. The club has grown in numbers tremendously over the years and now attracts well over a hundred individuals at the annual dinner.
Dr. Yabsley’s longstanding term as the first Chief of Orthopaedic Surgery was completed in l989. Dr. David Alexander who led by example with his wisdom for a ten-year term followed him in the position of Chief. In l999 Dr. Gerald Reardon became the third Chief of Orthopaedic Surgery, following the amalgamation of the Halifax hospitals and the move into the new facility, the New Halifax Infirmary. Dr. David Amirault assumed the role of Chief in 2005 and continues to lead the Division.
Other highlights in the history of the Division of Orthopaedics were the hosting of the Canadian Orthopaedic Association Meeting in l965. The Atlantic Provinces Orthopaedic Society was formed in l964, mainly to act as hosts of the meeting in conjunction with the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery. Subsequently, the Division hosted the COA annual meeting in l981 and as well, the 50th anniversary meeting of the Canadian Orthopaedic Association in l995. The annual meeting scheduled for 2007 will also be held in Halifax.
In the l980’s the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery worked in conjunction with Memorial University, overseeing their training program, which allowed the Memorial Residents to complete their last two years of their training at Dalhousie and graduate as Dalhousie trained Orthopaedic Surgeons. The Memorial program has since been repatriated back to Newfoundland.
Over the years the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery has grown significantly in many areas including the number of surgeons, the number of surgical cases performed per year, and the number of patient visits seen at the Institution.