Celebrating 50 years of an orthopaedic surgery residency at UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville

Image: John S. Kirkpatrick, M.D.
John S. Kirkpatrick, M.D.

It began as a community residency, one component of the Jacksonville Heath Education Program in the old Duval Medical Center.

Now, as the orthopaedic surgery residency celebrates its 50th anniversary, it’s a full academic department within the UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville, turning out four graduates a year who will go on to specialize in everything from joint replacement and spinal work to trauma and sports medicine.

"It’s a monumental milestone," said John S. Kirkpatrick, M.D., professor and chair of orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation. "Anytime an institution or a program can make it 50 years like this, it’s significant."

Alumni and past faculty returned this month for an anniversary gala at the Marriott at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.

The origins of the program trace to 1962. The first resident graduated just one year later. He came from Chicago hoping just to get some pediatric othropaedic training he couldn’t get up there, but George J. Fipp, M.D., was compelled to stay and became the first graduate.

Including the class of 2012 that finished its training this month, the residency has more than 100 graduates. Since 2003, the program has had four residents a year in the five-year program, employing 20 residents at any given time.

The department has seven full-time orthopaedic surgeons on faculty, with one more coming on board this fall, to go along with three podiatrists, Kirkpatrick said.

About 20 alumni are practicing in the Jacksonville area, including Brett C. Puckett, M.D., assistant professor and associate program director of UF’s orthopaedic surgery residency in Jacksonville.

In addition to the major rotation site at Shands Jacksonville Medical Center and experiences at the Emerson Medical Plaza, the residency has a substantial community piece to it. Residents do two three-month stints at the Mayo Clinic and two at Nemours to help round out their education.

And the department is expanding its reach in the community and, now, about 40 percent of patients are seen at the UF Bone and Joint Center at Emerson. The Emerson practice has grown significantly the past several years. For example, the sports medicine program has quadrupled its patients since Nigel W. Sparks, M.D., came on board three years ago, Kirkpatrick said, and Sparks has added a Saturday morning sports clinic during high school football season.

Residents help staff some of the local high school athletics, while Sparks works with Edward Waters College and local semi-pro teams including the Jacksonville Suns Double-A baseball team and the Jacksonville Giants of the American Basketball Association.

The changing behavior patterns as people get older are forcing the department, and the specialty in general, to realign its resources, Kirkpatrick said.

The aging populations will need more joint reconstruction and spine specialists, but the improved health of active baby boomers will constitute the need for more sport medicine doctors, Kirkpatrick said.

The department will continue to adapt to meet the needs, Kirkpatrick said, with an eye on producing the doctors the community needs for another 50 years.