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Biographical entry Bucholz, Robert William (1947 - 2016)

BA Yale; MD; Hon FRCS 2004.

31 July 1947
Omaha, Nebraska
20 May 2016
Orthopaedic surgeon and Trauma surgeon


Robert William Bucholz was an orthopaedic surgeon and professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, Texas, and a former president of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. He was born on 31 July 1947 in Omaha, Nebraska. His father was a physician who practised internal medicine. Bob, as he was universally known, grew up planning to enter the world of business and economics. After leaving high school in 1965, he entered Yale University and graduated with a major in economics. Probably due to his father's influence, he changed his career course and attended Yale School of Medicine.

After a one-year surgical internship at the University of Colorado, he returned to Yale for a residency in orthopaedic surgery. While at Yale, working with one of his mentors, John Ogden, he studied children with avascular necrosis (AVN) following treatment of developmental dislocation of the hip. This collaboration produced the Bucholz-Ogden classification of AVN, which advanced knowledge of the disorder and remains one of the standard classifications in paediatric orthopaedic practice.

During his residency, he met and subsequently married a young medical student, Marybeth Ezaki. When Ezaki chose to carry out her orthopaedic surgery residency at Parkland Hospital, an affiliate of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Bucholz elected to join the orthopaedic faculty at that institution in 1977. As Ezaki finished her residency and planned to study hand surgery with a British surgeon, Bob took a research position at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Engineering Centre in Oxford. There he helped introduce several concepts of trauma surgery which were in vogue in Dallas, but had not yet been in practise in the UK.

Back in Dallas, Bucholz' career trended steadily upward. He was interested in trauma management, which was practised at the highest level at the Parkland Hospital, and he also became expert in the treatment of disorders of the cervical spine, with numerous publications in this area. He was awarded a Berg-Sloat travelling fellowship by the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation, and subsequently received the American Orthopedic Association-American-British-Canadian (ABC) travelling fellowship in 1985.

He was promoted to full professor, and in 1989 he became chairman of the department of orthopedics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He also held the Dallas Rehabilitation Institute distinguished chair in orthopedic rehabilitation. The department grew in size, prestige, and productivity under his leadership. He was known as an outstanding teacher and mentor to students and residents at all levels of training over his 38-year tenure at the University. These generations remain as a lasting legacy to his career.

Bucholz was an active leader in many organisations. With the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery, he was chair of the educational programming committee for five years, and subsequently became the 72nd president of the Academy. He was an examiner and a director of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, and a member of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

He was an avid reader of medical literature and was a long-time reviewer for The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (American edition) and held the post of associate editor, and was also deputy editor for trauma for the Journal. He was an editor for five editions of Rockwood and Green's fractures in adults (Philadelphia, Lippincott).

Bob loved time with his three daughters and one grandchild, and had a passion for travel. He was an avid nature lover and outdoorsman, especially adept at climbing 14,000 foot Colorado mountains. He was a student of history, especially that of the American Civil War, the Second World War and 20th century American history.

Bob was one of the true lovers of life. He was robust, energetic, engaging and in possession of a brilliant intellect. His sense of humour was unique and there was a mischievous side to his personality. He devoured crossword puzzles, loved trivial pursuit games and competed with a vengeance at Scrabble. As he faced the daunting inevitability of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (motor neuron disease), he never wavered in his intellectual endeavours, but could not defeat the relentless physical decline. As his wife noted '…in true form, Bob hosted [the] JBJS Journal club in our home three days before he died.' He died on 20 May 2016, aged 68. The world certainly lost one of the truly great persons of orthopaedic surgery with his passing, and he is greatly missed.

J A Herring

Sources used to compile this entry: [Yale College Class of 1969 - accessed 18 June 2017].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England