The POSNA Hall of Fame provides an enduring history to honor those POSNA members who have displayed dedication to the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America, teaching and mentoring, studying musculoskeletal conditions in children and caring for children with musculoskeletal conditions. Nominations for members are taken each fall and selected by the Awards Committee and members of the Hall of Fame.
Hall of Fame Categories: Leadership, Diversity, Teacher, Humanitarian, Hero, Triumph over Adversity, Pioneer, Contributions to Literature, Home Person (one who does the real work while others go to meetings), Fox-Hole Buddy (reliable person when the stakes are high), Exceptional Clinician, POSNA Service
John Birch, MD
Dr. John Birch was born in Canada and attended the University of Windsor, followed by medical school at the University of Western Ontario in London. He stayed on to do his internship at the Ottawa Civic Hospital and completed his residency at the University of Ottawa. He travelled to Dallas to complete a fellowship in pediatric orthopedics at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital (TSRH) where he was classmates with Charlie Johnston. As a reflection of his yearning for knowledge, he completed traveling fellowships at the Newington Children's Hospital and the Alfred I Dupont Institute.
John then returned to Ottawa at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario for two years practicing pediatric orthopaedic surgery and was the director of the limb deficiency clinic. Dr. Birch was then recruited back to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital by Tony Herring in 1984 and remained there until his retirement and had a clinical appointment at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical school achieving full Professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Dr. Birch had a very robust practice in all areas of pediatric orthopaedic surgery during his years at TSRH including hip, spine, foot and ankle and was a true general pediatric orthopaedist during his entire career.
In addition to being a pediatric orthopaedist who could take care of all conditions, Dr. Birch dedicated a significant part of his practice to treating children with the Ilizarov technique. His initial interest began when he attended a precourse in San Francisco in 1988 organized by Dr. Mike Tachdjian featuring Professor Ilizarov himself. Dr. Birch subsequently organized a one week visit visit to Lecco, Italy followed by a visit from Professor Maurizio Catagni to Dallas. Ultimately Dr. Birch took his family for a 2 month visit to Lecco to further his knowledge and learn the finer points of the Ilizarov technique. Along the way, he was able to build an expert group in Dallas that included three of Ilizarov’s associates - Drs. Mikhail Samchukov, Alex Cherkashin and Marina Makarov. Dr. Birch led this team in the advancement of care of children with very challenging limb deformities and fostered the development of the TruLok Ring Fixation system working in conjunction with Orthofix Medical, Inc. Dr. Birch’s career advancing the field of lower limb reconstruction and lengthening is recognized worldwide and was elected the President of The Limb Lengthening and Reconstruction Society in 2003–2004.
Dr. Birch excelled in all three areas of academic medicine: clinical care, research and education. Dr. Birch is well-known for his impeccable care of patients always putting the patient’s needs and desires at the forefront of his thinking and their management. His rapport with the patients and families was always at the highest level and he truly cared for them as if they were his own. Dr. Birch was always teaching in all settings including the outpatient clinic, the inpatient ward, in the operating room, and in more formal conference room settings. His work was recognized by the UT Southwestern Orthopedic Department receiving the Peter Mattson award for teaching and leadership as voted on by the orthopaedic residents. He continues to educate the fellows each Monday morning in a case-based conference reviewing interesting cases which are upcoming for the fellows educating them on the finer points of each condition. Dr. Birch has always been a meticulous researcher answering the most important questions in pediatric orthopaedics. He has published seminal works including his classification on fibular deficiency; reviewing the nearly 40 year experience with tibial deficiency and his work on predicting growth and the effects of epiphysiodesis. He is the lead author together with Dror Paley comparing amputation with limb salvage for severe fibular deficiency that was published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery and was awarded the Best Clinical Paper at the 2009 POSNA meeting.
It is fair to say that Dr. Birch is revered by all of his partners, colleagues and friends as a person who always treated everyone with the greatest respect, was open to everybody's idea, and was willing to learn from each and every person he came into contact with. As a result, everyone has the highest regard for him as an individual, physician, and surgeon. He is one of the most sought-after individuals to get opinions not only on clinical cases but advice (perhaps more importantly) on career and life decisions.
Dr. Birch always lists as his most cherished and most proud moments being those with his family: his wife Eleanor, and his talented children Cailin and Craig and the newest addition to his family, his granddaughter Madeleine. All are accomplished in their own right including Craig who is now a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Boston Children’s. Outside of work, John has many interests including being an avid soccer fan following Major League Soccer and has been a season-ticket holder at the FC Dallas games since the stadium was built. He is not only a spectator but he continues to be a member of his local soccer team playing “left back” for the past 3 decades.
We can learn many things from John by following the way he has lived out his life and his career. But in his own words here are some critically important lessons:
“You have selected THE finest subspecialty in medicine. Savor every day of it as you are best able.
Be kind and gentle towards all, including yourself. There are very few, if any, professional tasks one can accomplish without a lot of help from people both seen and unseen: be appreciative of them, and to the best of your ability, let them know that you do.
As much as possible within an often-demanding career you cannot fully control, make time for yourself and your family doing things you enjoy. It makes you a better, happier person, which in turn makes you a better physician and surgeon. While at times you will have to make sacrifices you do not want to make, as much as possible, Family First. And, enjoy the journey: none of us knows how long it will be.”
Biography written by Dr. Dan Sucato, on behalf of the Hall of Fame Committee. 2021.
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