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USA Health System
News Release
Mobile, Ala. (June 29, 2004)
Contact: Paul Taylor
Public Relations, (251) 461-1509

USA Department of Orthopaedics to Host Free Exhibit Recognizing WWII Surgeons

The University of South Alabama Department of Orthopaedic Surgery will host an award-winning commemorative exhibit and film honoring the contributions made by orthopaedic surgeons during World War II. This exhibit will be on display in the lobby at USA Knollwood Hospital's Pavilion from July1-31, 2004 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. It is free and open to the public.

The presentation, titled "Legacy of Heroes" is a unique project completed by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons to commemorate the contributions of orthopaedic surgeons during the Second World War.

The multimedia exhibit tells the courageous, inspiring, and sometimes heartbreaking stories of orthopaedic surgeons who served in World War II. The exhibit documents, for the first time, the history of orthopaedic surgeons and their wartime experiences using both personal and detailed accounts of individuals, as well chronicling the great strides made in the treatment of orthopaedic trauma as a result of developments from World War II.

More than 100 Academy members - also World War II veterans now in their 70s and 80s - were interviewed to record and preserve their individual stories. All of their stories are featured on the website, and many are included in the book "Legacy of Heroes" and the documentary film "Wounded in Action." Some of these veterans were taken back to the beaches at Normandy and to Pearl Harbor, where they served, to reflect on tragic memories, heroic moments, and the impact these experiences had on their lives.

It has been said that World War II created an obscene training ground for surgeons, but despite the gruesome and tragic nature of their training, these present-day orthopaedic surgeons have taken the positive from the situation. As veteran John T. Hayes, M.D. stated, "…from wartime experiences, we've learned to rebuild the broken bodies, and we've learned to take care of the terrible wounds that we now see on the highways that we once saw in the war. The joy of orthopaedic surgery is that we rebuild people. It's a wonderful, optimistic branch of surgery."

Many of these veterans entered the war as medics or litter-bearers and then were pushed forward as necessary to treat the wounded. They then received formal training as orthopaedic surgeons after the war. The sheer numbers of the wounded soldiers created opportunities to attempt bold, new surgical techniques. The intricacies of hand surgery, prosthetics and spine surgery were developed and refined as orthopaedic surgeons treated tens of thousands of casualties. Internal and external fixation, joint replacement, bone fusion, and the use of antibiotics, were among the developments resulting from the war.

Additional information on the Legacy of Heroes project can be found at


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Last date changed: August 3, 2004 9:43 AM