Western Orthopaedic Association WOA


The rumblings of the future organization to be known as the Western Orthopaedic Association began after World War I.

It began with the efforts of a few orthopaedic surgeons on the West Coast. In a lecture given by Steele Stewart in 1967, he indicated that he and Howard Markel talked of the possibilities of a Western Orthopaedic Association while they were hanging over the port rail of the old S.S. Maui as she plowed through a light fog toward the Golden Gate.

This was probably the inspiration for the formation of the association.

There were several orthopedic surgeons practicing in both Los Angeles and San Francisco after World War I and into the early 1920’s.

There were two clubs that were involved in orthopedics initially in the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Some of the early names in the Los Angeles Club included Charles Leroy Lowman, Ellis W. Jones, Sr., Halbert Chancel, Alfred Gallant, Steele Stewart, John Dunlap, and John Wilson, Sr.

In San Francisco, the names included Walter Baldwin, Howard Markel, Leonard Ely, Arthur Fisher, James Watkins, Thomas Stoddard, Edward Bull, Jack Haas, and James McChesney.

The first efforts on the west coast to form an Orthopedic Club began in 1922 in Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Orthopedic club was organized in 1922.

In 1923 there was a joint meeting of the orthopedists from San Francisco and Los Angeles clubs following which the clubs began having exchange meetings.

In the early history of orthopedic surgery, it should be noted there was no organized training program.

Preceptorships were common. There was no formal board certification. This didn't occur until formation of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery in the middle of 1933.

The first orthopedic group formed was the American Orthopedic Association and that was founded in 1888 to put orthopedics into a specialty from that point on. Until formation of the two clubs, there had never been a totally orthopedic society west of the Mississippi River.

This organization became the first.

Through the efforts of the two orthopedic clubs from Los Angeles and San Francisco, a meeting was held in San Francisco, then Los Angeles and finally Yosemite park.

This was the first meeting of west coast orthopedic surgeons and to the meetings came some of the outstanding orthopedists from the East.

The presence of the Eastern orthopedic surgeons increased the desire for formation of their own western regional organization. Howard Markel and Steele Stewart in 1929 proposed that the clubs from Los Angeles and San Francisco be combined into a formal association. A Constitutional Committee was appointed consisting of Howard Markel, Thomas Stoddard, Charles Lowman and Steele Stewart.

The constitution was ready by the Fall meeting in 1930.

It is interesting to note that the original constitution provided three sections geographically:

1. Northern including British Columbia, Washington and Oregon

2. Central including Northern California, Nevada, and Utah

3. Southern including Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Hawaii.

Provisions were made for the formation of new Chapters. It was then decided to hold meetings in rotation and presidential succession was established. James F. Watkins of San Francisco became the first president in the first meeting in 1932.

The first meeting after acceptance of the constitution was held in the Fall of 1932 in San Francisco.

After that, efforts continued for further membership and additional chapters. In 1937, Roger Anderson was elected president and Seattle became the next chapter.

During all of this time, the format was a combination of scientific program and social functions. It was this format that persisted throughout all of the years.

About this time World War II came along and interrupted the function of the Western Orthopedic Association. It was inoperative until 1947.

In 1942 there were 89 members listed in the Western Orthopedic Association. At the conclusion of World War II, the society was at a low ebb.

In March 1947, Alfred E. Gallant, from Los Angeles, sent out a memorandum to men practicing orthopedic surgery in the western area of the Untied States.

It was through his efforts that the WOA sprang back into life. Alfred E. Gallant was elected president and the meeting was held at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.

It was at this meting for the first time that there was a large commercial exhibit presented with great success.

This fact greatly enhanced the treasury and the organization started toward financial solvency.

Chapters began to form and enlarge the scope of the organization.

Membership steadily increased over the years.

By 1960 there were 16 Chapters in 14 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.

Over the years a number of significant improvements and events have occurred.

Guest speakers became part of the program in 1954. In 1955 the organization was incorporated as a nonprofit organization under the presidency of J. Warren White.

The aim of the group included scientific, educational and charitable purposes for the advancement of the art and science of orthopedic surgery.

In 1954, Vi Mathieson was appointed as full time secretary and worked diligently to keep the organization in order.

In 1956, a permanent Central Office was established and Vi became the first Executive Secretary. H. Jacqueline Martin was hired as Assistant Executive Secretary in July 1972 and took over the full time position in October 1972 when Vi Mathieson was forced to retire because of illness.

Ms Martin retired in 1995 and was succeeded by Susan M Hanf as WOA Executive Director.

While on board, Ms Hanf expanded the services offered and streamlined the administrative functions of the WOA.

In 1999, Ms Hanf resigned as WOA Executive Director. In 2003 Chuck Freitag became the new WOA Executive Director.

In 1957, it was proposed that the retiring president be given a gift to thank him for his services.

A committee was formed, the design for the presidential medallion was approved and bronze paper weights were prepared for all the past presidents.

This presentation was continued in this form until 1980, when the medallion was incorporated into the Presidential Plaque.

In 1960, after much effort, the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery became the official journal of the WOA. Yearly summations of the Association's program are incorporated in the Journal.

In the course of evolution of the WOA through the efforts of Vernon P. Thompson, the residents orthopedic surgery program began to receive recognition.

In 1952, he established a competitive program in which residents from the western states submitted original works to be presented at the Annual Meeting. Dr. Thompson was keenly interested in teaching and the education of young physicians.

He felt they should be recognized by allowing them time to present on the program. Four papers were permitted initially. There are now up to six papers presented each year.

Each resident is given a monetary honorarium to help defray the expense of the meeting.

This portion of the WOA program remains in remembrance of Dr. Thompson's dedication and efforts.

The Association Officers in 1933 were: President: James T. Watkins, M.D., San Francisco Vice-President: Steele F. Stewart, Los Angeles Secretary: Frederic C. Bost, M.D., San Francisco Treasurer: Thomas A. Stoddard, M.D., Los Angeles Counselor: Howard H. Markel, M.D., San Francisco Gradually, the Board has enlarged to the present consistency of 13 members: President, Ist Vice-President, 2nd Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer/Historian, Immediate Past-President, three Members-at-Large, and four Junior Members. Junior Members joined the Board in 1971.

The purpose of the Junior Member was to bring members under 42 years of age onto the Board so that they could gain experience, learn the procedures of the Board and become more active members. In addition to their service on the Board, Junior Members are also given committee appointments to further familiarize them with the operations of the association.

It is found to be a most useful program and continues to make young men and women more active in the organization.

Through the years a number of committees have been established to help the Board of Directors in their administration. Currently these committees include: Scientific Program, Orthopaedic Resident Program, Membership, Finance, Planning & Development, By-Laws and Traveling Professor.

In addition, the Nominating Committee is elected at the Annual Meeting to propose a slate of Officers.

The committee consists of the three retiring members of the Board and four members elected from the floor.

The Past President is Chairman of the Committee.

In 1989, Past President Rodney K. Beals, M.D. proposed the idea of bringing noted orthopaedists from around the world who would travel to three or four of the Chapters prior to being the Guest Speaker at the Annual Meeting.

The program is now in its fifth year and has been enjoyed at least once by almost all the chapters. The program continues to improve each year.

The Association has now reached over 1,700 members and continues to grow. It is a stable organization both in membership growth and finances. It continues to grow through the efforts of the current officers and members who endeavor to perpetuate the early beginnings of our forebears in the 1920's and 1930's. Never let us forget their enormous dedication and contributions.


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