Humanitarian Award Winners

The Humanitarian Award recognizes Fellows of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons who have distinguished themselves through outstanding musculoskeletal activities in the USA or abroad.

What is a Humanitarian? A humanitarian endeavors to improve the human condition through saving lives and alleviating suffering while supporting and contributing to the basic human dignity of those in need.

A humanitarian

  • Gives of themselves regardless of compensation
  • Provides services without expectation of remuneration
  • Provides services to all equally, impartially, cooperatively and neutrally
  • Embraces common moral decencies such as altruism, integrity, freedom, justice, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility and compassion
  • Respects and embraces human diversity
  • Improves the lives of those in need through selfless, courageous, creative and compassionate acts

2014 Humanitarian Award Recipient
Scott C. Nelson, MD
Scott C. Nelson, MD

While younger than the other [Humanitarian] Award winners, he has already served more than most manage in a lifetime,” wrote John E. Herzenberg, MD, of his friend and colleague, Scott C. Nelson, MD.

Dr. Nelson, who was honored with the 2014 AAOS Humanitarian Award during the Ceremonial Meeting at the 2014 AAOS Annual Meeting, is committed to providing orthopaedic care to underserved populations and inspiring the next generation of orthopaedists to volunteer their time and expertise. During a 5-year medical mission in the Dominican Republic and more than 30 trips to Haiti, Dr. Nelson has treated thousands of patients in need, and has also established numerous orthopaedic training programs to help improve orthopaedic care in the Caribbean.


2013 Humanitarian Award Recipient
David S. Hungerford, MD
David S. Hungerford, MD

Humanitarian efforts are “just an ingrained part of his soul,” explains Michael A. Mont, MD, describing his friend and colleague, David S. Hungerford, MD.

Dr. Hungerford, who was presented with the 2013 AAOS Humanitarian Award during the 2013 Annual Meeting, has spent more than 30 years developing ways to assist the medically needy and the underprivileged, both abroad and at home.

“He puts his time, his talent, and his treasure where it’s needed most to impact people,” says Michael Nyenhuis, of MAP International—a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing assistance in disaster areas and developing nations, with which Dr. Hungerford has had a long working relationship.


2012 Humanitarian Award Recipient
Shafique P. Pirani, MD
Shafique P. Pirani, MD

For more than a decade, Shafique P. Pirani, MD, has been passionate about improving the function and quality of life of Ugandan children afflicted with clubfoot. The AAOS recognized this devotion by presenting Dr. Pirani with the Humanitarian Award during the 2012 AAOS Annual Meeting.

The Humanitarian Award honors members of the Academy who have distinguished themselves through outstanding musculoskeletal-related humanitarian activities in the United States or abroad. This award also recognizes orthopaedic surgeons who help to improve the human condition by alleviating suffering and supporting and contributing to the basic human dignity of those in need.


2011 Humanitarian Award Recipient
Taylor K. Smith, MD
Taylor K. Smith, MD

For more than half his life, Taylor K. Smith, MD, has been involved in humanitarian activities. The AAOS recognized this devotion by presenting Dr. Smith with the 2011 Humanitarian Award during the 2011 Annual Meeting in San Diego.

The Humanitarian Award honors members of the Academy who have distinguished themselves through outstanding musculoskeletal-related humanitarian activities in the United States or abroad. This award also recognizes orthopaedic surgeons who help to improve the human condition by alleviating suffering and supporting and contributing to the basic human dignity of those in need.


2010 Humanitarian Award Recipient
Larry D. Hull, MD
Larry D. Hull, MD

AAOS fellow Larry Dale Hull, MD, is dedicated to healing the human spirit as well as the human body. Recognizing this devotion, the AAOS yesterday presented the 2010 Humanitarian Award to Dr. Hull for his three decades of medical mission work.

Dr. Hull, founder of the Washington Orthopaedic Center in Centralia, Wash., began making medical mission trips in 1976, bringing orthopaedic and primary care to underserved populations in Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Since that time, he has completed nearly 40 medical mission trips.


2009 Humanitarian Award Recipient
David P. Roye Jr., MD

David P. Roye Jr., MDDavid Roye embodies the very essence of the physician-humanitarian,” wrote Michael G. Vitale, MD, in nominating David P. Roye Jr., MD, for the AAOS Humanitarian Award. “It is hard for me to imagine someone more deserving.”

Louis U. Bigliani, MD, agreed, calling Dr. Roye “a true humanist” who is “devoted to the betterment of mankind.”

Dr. Roye was presented with the tenth annual AAOS Humanitarian Award during the 2009 Annual Meeting in Las Vegas.


2008 Humanitarian Award Recipient
Kaye E. Wilkins, DVM, MD

Kaye E. Wilkins, DVM, MDKaye E. Wilkins, MD, pediatric orthopaedic surgeon, has spent his entire career improving the lives of patients and teaching physicians in more than 20 countries around the globe. In recognition of his efforts, the Academy honored Dr. Wilkins with the ninth annual AAOS Humanitarian Award.

“Wow,” was Dr. Wilkins’ first word upon receiving the award from his good friend, AAOS 2007 President James H. Beaty, MD. “Now I know how the Oscar winners felt last month. They were overwhelmed and had an urge to thank everyone … This would not have happened without the resources and help of those around me,” Dr. Wilkins said.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that helping people doesn’t happen overnight,” Dr. Wilkins said. “If you want to have a serious effect on people’s lives, it has to be a long-term effort. You have to meet the people, find out their needs, and figure out where the gaps lie. The next part is simple; teach them what you know.”


2007 Humanitarian Award Recipient
Lewis G. Zirkle, Jr., MD

Lewis G. Zirkle, Jr., MDGiven his extraordinary accomplishments, it isn’t surprising that the Academy was inundated with glowing letters of commendation and support for Dr. Zirkle when the call went out for the 2007 AAOS Humanitarian Award nominations.

“Dr. Zirkle is living evidence that one AAOS surgeon can change the world,” wrote Stephen S. Tower, MD, one of dozens of colleagues and supporters who voiced their admiration and respect for Dr. Zirkle.

This work is both a calling and a passion for Dr. Zirkle. “I think it’s so unfair for someone to get their allotted time on this Earth and not be able to enjoy it,” he says. “I’m tremendously lucky, and I believe I should pass some of that enjoyment to others.”


2006 Humanitarian Award Recipient
R. Richard Coughlin, MD

R. Richard Coughlin, MDBorn with a passion for helping others, R. Richard Coughlin, MD is dedicated to volunteering. He has generously donated his time, energy and compassion to patients in all parts of the world who otherwise would not have access to orthopaedic care.

As a third-grade student, Dr. Coughlin listened to his teacher talk about a great 20th-century physician named Albert Schweitzer: a man who selflessly dedicated his life to helping others around the world. That lecture, given almost 45 years ago, sparked a desire for helping others and is the driving motivation behind Dr. Coughlin’s passion for overseas volunteerism.

“It is largely Rick Coughlin’s example that has inspired a generation of orthopaedic surgeons to become international volunteers,” said Michael C. MacAvoy, MD, orthopaedic surgeon at Kaiser, South San Francisco. “Without question, I consider my month-long rotation in Africa the most invaluable month of my entire residency.”


2005 Humanitarian Award Recipient
Lawrence D. Dorr, MD

Lawrence D. Dorr, MDTo hundreds of impoverished and uninsured people around the world who suffer from debilitating arthritis, orthopaedic surgeon Lawrence D. Dorr, MD, and his colleagues are nothing less than miracle-workers. “You look into the eyes of these people and it’s like a miracle dropped out of the sky for them,” says Dr. Dorr, a renowned joint replacement surgeon and founder of the not-for-profit volunteer organization, “Operation Walk.”

From the Nicaraguan woman whose leg was crushed during an earthquake, to an elderly woman in Nepal so crippled by arthritis she could barely get out of bed, Dr. Dorr’s charitable work has brought the gift of mobility and relief from pain to disadvantaged people as far away as China, Cuba and the Philippines, and as close to home as Los Angeles.


2004 Humanitarian Award Recipient
Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, MD

Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, MDThe value of service to others and loyalty to one’s homeland was instilled in Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, MD, at a very young age. As an eight-year-old in the city of Kumasi, Ghana, Boachi-Adjei nearly died from a severe gastric illness. When the herbal remedy prescribed by a local healer did little to help, extreme dehydration began to take its toll on the young boy, who grew weaker by the day.

Fortunately, his family was able to track down one of the country’s few physicians—a pediatrician who had returned to Ghana after training in the U.K. The doctor came to his aid, successfully treating him with Western medicine.

“People were dying next to me,” Dr. Boachie-Adjei says. “I was lucky to have a pediatrician who decided to come home.”


2003 Humanitarian Award Recipient
John R. Tongue, MD

John R. Tongue, MD John R.Tongue, MD learned the benefits of seat belts the hard way. As a high school student in 1963, he was hit broadside by another vehicle while driving a compact car. His car rolled over several times upon impact. A police officer at the scene of the accident told him that his seat belt had saved his life.

Although his life was spared, Dr. Tongue says, "It was the most frightening day of my life. I wanted to prevent anyone of that age from experiencing anything like it."

Twenty years later, Dr. Tongue, now an orthopaedic surgeon in Tualatin, Ore., became a tenacious advocate for transportation safety issues and affected major change among the three main causes of traffic injuries and fatalities: lack of safety belt use, drunk driving and excessive speed.

While the memories of that long-ago accident remained in the back of his mind, Dr. Tongue says the facts of the safety belt issue are what spurred his involvement. "I could see the data, I knew what seat belts could do," he says.


2002 Humanitarian Award Recipient
Dr. David Apple, MD

Dr. David Apple, MD

Last year more than 1,000 spinal cord injuries were reported in the United States alone. That is precisely why David Apple, MD, has worked tirelessly on behalf of people with physical disabilities by providing care for their injuries and supporting their transition back into the community. In 1975, Dr. Apple left his orthopaedic practice in order to develop a spinal cord injury rehabilitation center in Atlanta. "The plan was to start a center in Atlanta to provide care and rehabilitation treatment for tetraplegia and paraplegia patients" he explained. "There wasn’t a spinal cord injury rehabilitation center in the area and it allowed patients from Georgia and the Southeast access to quality care."


2002 Humanitarian Award Recipient
Charles C. P. McConnachie, MD

Charles C. P. McConnachie, MDIn South Africa, one of the major barriers to health care is navigating through the oppressive legacy of apartheid. The impoverished city of Umatia, in the Transkei region of the Republic of South Africa, has benefited from the efforts of Dr. McConnachie, a Hendersonville, N.C. orthopaedic surgeon who has devoted his life to caring for the people in one of the world’s poorest locations on the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

In 1984, Dr. McConnachie and his wife founded the African Medical Mission, which was created to provide quality medical care for the underprivileged in South Africa. The mission provides support for the Bedford Orthopedic Center, the only orthopaedic hospital in the area, which serves about 4 million people annually.

Dr. McConnachie is the medical director and chief surgeon at the Center, and chairman of the governing board for the African Medical Mission. He is the only American orthopaedic surgeon on staff at the Center and he performs at least 15 surgeries a week.


2001 Humanitarian Award Recipient
Ernest M. Burgess, MD

Ernest M. Burgess, MDThe Prosthetics Outreach Center in Hanoi, Vietnam, is the brainchild of Ernest M. Burgess, MD, who passed away this past year. Dr. Burgess is being honored for his work improving the lives of thousands of amputees in Viet Nam and other developing countries.

While serving in the Pacific during World War II, Dr. Burgess became deeply interested in rehabilitating amputees. In 1964 the U.S. Veterans Administration chose Dr. Burgess to establish the Prosthetic Research Study (PRS), a leading center for post-operative amputee treatment. He later invented the Seattle Foot ®, which has an internal spring to enable amputees to be active. Under Dr. Burgess’ direction at the PRS, the Seattle ShapeMaker ® software and related techniques to improve the design and production of prostheses were developed.


2001 Humanitarian Award Recipient
Charles Hamlin, MD

Charles Hamlin, MDDr. Hamlin’s years of work with the Navajo Indians in Chinle, Ariz., demonstrates that one need not travel beyond the borders of the United States in order to serve a deserving population. As Dr. Hamlin has often said, "you don’t need a passport to provide orthopaedic care for a Third World country."

On the high plateaus of the Navajo Reservation more than 50 percent of the adult males are unemployed. Diabetes, heart disease and alcoholism are endemic and more than half the residents of this community have no electricity or running water–80 percent are without telephones.

Dr. Hamlin became acquainted with the Navajos through his work with patients with spinal cord injuries. "Many of the Navajos have alcohol problems and don’t use seatbelts when they drive, so I went down there in 1993 to see some spinal cord patients." While there, he discovered that the nearest hand surgeon was five or more hours away in Albuquerque or Phoenix. Many of the Navajos are farmers and ranchers, so hand injury is quite common.


2000 Humanitarian Award Recipient
Charles H. Epps, Jr., MD (center right)

Charles Hamlin, MD

Charles H. Epps, Jr., MD, Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Howard University, Washington, D.C., has trained more than 4,000 African American and minority medical students and 70 orthopaedic residents since 1961. He was the Dean of Howard University’s College of Medicine for six years and program director of the minority residency program for 24 years. Dr. Epps has continued to serve as a role model, mentor and advisor for minority men and women orthopaedic surgeons, regardless of where they have trained.

"As a minority myself, I learned early-on the importance of hard work and the importance of education," Dr. Epps says. "Although I grew up in Maryland—a border state—I experienced segregation and discrimination from as early as childhood. But I was fortunate enough to get a good education that prepared me for medical school. Then, I developed an interest in teaching and the rest came naturally.


2000 Humanitarian Award Recipient
C. Scott Harrison, MD (in green)

C. Scott Harrison, MDC. Scott Harrison, MD, Harrisburg, Pa., began his Third World orthopaedic work in 1966, working at a leprosarium while stationed in Vietnam. Later, he worked with Orthopaedics Overseas in Malawi and in the Transkei in Africa. After visiting and performing short-term humanitarian work in Africa for more than a dozen years,

Dr. Harrison began the Crippled Children’s United Rehabilitation Effort (CCURE) in 1996. The nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization is dedicated to bringing First World level rehabilitative care (circa 1985) to the disabled children of the Third World.

With funds primarily supplied by Dr. Harrison and his wife, CCURE’s first hospital opened in Kijabe, outside of Nairobi, in May of 1998. Bethany’s Crippled Children’s Centre of Kenya—a 32-bed hospital—achieved full occupancy shortly after opening. To date, comprehensive rehabilitative care has been provided to more than 7,000 children with more than 2,000 surgical procedures performed. Physical therapy and bracing, as indicated, have augmented the surgical care.

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