Dennis S. Weiner, MD
Dr. Dennis “Denny” Weiner grew up in Akron, Ohio, a baseball and basketball standout at Akron Buchtel High School talented enough to be offered a Detroit Tigers contract at age 17. His sports dreams were modified by his modest Jewish family’s suggestion that the chance to attend college, and to perhaps be a doctor or lawyer, was a better choice. One of five boys, he was only the second member of his family to graduate from college. One uncle preceded him. Denny attended Baldwin-Wallace College on a full athletic scholarship, then Ohio State University for medical school. He was still unclear on career choice, but his athletic background interested him in sports medicine and orthopaedics. After medical school, he served in the Navy in San Diego for two years, and returned to Akron for an orthopaedic residency after interviewing with Dr. Harry O’Dell, at Akron General Hospital. Early in residency, he became deeply interested in the orthopaedic care of children, which was encouraged by Walter Hoyt, Jr who was the Orthopaedic Chief at Akron General Hospital and Akron Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Weiner and Dr. Glass in the OR
In 1969, after completing his orthopaedic residency, Dr. Weiner was encouraged, in this time before formal fellowships, to seek further experience before spending the rest of his long career in Akron. His first foray was a great year with Ian McNab, in Toronto, where the expectation was a lot of spine surgery. The reality was a tremendous and varied time that included Saturdays in the Toronto-wide discussion sessions that included John Hall, Robert Salter, and others from the Hospital for Sick Children that further whetted Denny’s appetite for pediatric orthopaedics. Additional visitation to Rancho Los Amigos Hospital with Dr. Jacquelin Perry and others
extended Denny’s network. Back in Akron, he connected with the Crippled Children’s Clinics, at a time when they were beginning to deal with much more than polio. He began an interest in dwarfism and its orthopaedic manifestations, particularly among the Ohio Amish, that stayed with him his whole life.
As Dr. Hoyt’s responsibilities at the AAOS increased, culminating in the AAOS Presidency in 1973, Dr. Weiner’s local role in care, teaching, research, and administration at Children’s Hospital took up the slack left by Dr. Hoyt. He replaced Dr Hoyt as Chairman at Children’s in 1974.
The remaining 47 years of his amazing life were packed full of living—both within his professional passion of children’s orthopaedics and outside it.
At the time of his death in June 2021, his partners Drs. Todd Ritzman and Mark Adamdzyk shared with POSNA their account of Dr. Weiner’s contributions to the field and the children of Akron:
Mark Adamczyk, MD, summarizes Dr. Weiner’s impact and legacy poignantly: “Dr. Weiner was a visionary, becoming a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon before the specialty even existed. He had extraordinary, infectious enthusiasm for his life and his work that inspired the generations of pediatric orthopaedic surgeons who followed him and continue his legacy at Akron Children’s Hospital. He was driven by his humanity to provide care for thousands of patients of all walks of life and by his curiosity to investigate a multitude of children’s orthopaedic conditions and publish voluminous papers, books, and book chapters that have helped to define pediatric orthopaedic surgery as a specialty.”
Dr. Ritzman wrote: “Dr. Weiner’s focused vision for and commitment to excellence in the specialization of pediatric orthopaedic care has initiated and created an ongoing trajectory pursuant of excellence at Akron Children's Hospital. Dennis pursued fellowship training in pediatric orthopaedics prior to the advent of formal fellowships–focused post-residency training in Toronto, San Francisco, Newington, Downey, and San Mateo laid the foundation for a career focused on improving the orthopaedic care of children and adolescents and created a new paradigm for specialized care in our region. Fifty years later, Dr. Weiner has been instrumental in growing Akron Children's Hospital’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery from a singular surgeon to 13 surgeons and 12 APPs. Quite frankly, the tenacity and longevity of Dr. Weiner’s vision for excellence is primarily responsible for this remarkable growth and history. During that half-century of service and leadership, Dr. Weiner served as Director of Education, Director of Research, Department Chair (32 year tenure), Director of Regional Skeletal Dysplasia Center, and Medical Director of the BioInnovation Institute of Akron. Fruits of his leadership have flourished in each of these roles.”
Dr. Weiner with patients
In education, Dr. Weiner consistently prioritized the importance of resident education. His longstanding passion for education is well evidenced–he was recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching. At the time of his passing, over 45 residents from seven residency programs were rotating annually at Akron Children's Hospital. A co-fellowship in pediatric orthopaedics and scoliosis had been started 5 years prior and the department was well-known for hosting a large, internationally attended annual pediatric orthopaedic resident review course. Perhaps the most credible validation of Dr. Weiner’s educational mentorship is the fact that over 30 pediatric orthopaedic surgeons are practicing today secondary to the inspiration and mentorship provided while rotating with him as residents. “All of us who shared the privilege of training under Dr. Weiner recall with great fondness his frequent informal resident lunches–opportunities to share life, share vision, talk about his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes, and persevere mockery for the inadequacies of our appetites.”
In research, Dr. Weiner had a productive career marked by numerous contributions to our specialty—92 peer-reviewed publications, 10 review articles/book chapters, hundreds of podium and poster presentations, and over $270K in research grant awards. Most importantly, Dr. Weiner utilized each of these research endeavors as an opportunity to mentor surgeons-in-training, offer academic opportunity, and stimulate interest in our subspecialty.
Additionally, Dr. Weiner’s contributions reach beyond the sphere of Northeast Ohio. His career is marked by 15 invited visiting professorships, national service as journal manuscript reviewer and meeting moderator, national recognition for expertise in skeletal dysplasias, and authorship of the 1st
Edition of the textbook, Pediatric Orthopaedics for the Primary Care Physician
. He has cultivated numerous close and collaborative relationships across our specialty via the 70+ colleagues invited to Akron as Visiting Professor and via his involvement in IPOTT. A great validation of Dr. Weiner’s lifetime of service was evidenced by his receipt of the 2007 AAP Distinguished Service Award recognizing his contribution to the Academy’s mission of excellence in patient care, research, and teaching.
Dr. Weiner’s 50-year contribution made an extraordinary impact on his patients, his trainees, our Institution, and our subspecialty. Frankly, his legacy and impact are irreplaceable and will have lasting benefit. We count ourselves extraordinarily blessed to have been graced with his presence in our lives, and we will miss him dearly.
Dr. Weiner was married to his cherished wife Phyllis and together they had 7 children, 8 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren. His family noted in Dr. Weiner’s obituary that he was not only a well-known surgeon, but “a gifted scholar, teacher, author, veteran, and inductee into the Jewish Basketball Hall of Fame.” They shared that he taught them “about commitment, faith, patience, acceptance, equality, trust, perseverance, generosity and the importance of kindness and compassion. He showed us how to treat others with respect, and how to be a father, grandfather, and a friend; how to be a husband, brother, uncle, and a son…He proudly wore loud shirts, flamboyant pants, and Cosby sweaters and thought that there was no occasion that was wrong for Ohio State clothing.”
Another resource for insight into Dennis Weiner, his life, and his effect on so many others, can be found in the Archives of Story Corps interviews of him by his Akron colleagues:
Biography written by Dr. Michael Millis, on behalf of the Hall of Fame Committee, with the great assistance and input of Dr. Mark Adamczyk and Todd Ritzman. 2022.