April 2004 Bulletin

Henry J. Mankin, MD, receives Diversity Award

By Jeannie Glickson

The 2004 AAOS Diversity Award was presented during opening ceremonies of the 2004 Annual Meeting to Henry J. Mankin, MD, whose career has been characterized by outstanding achievements in medical education, basic and clinical research, oncology and residency training.

During his remarkable orthopaedic career, he promoted diversity by exhorting his colleagues to be more open and by setting an example in his own life. His own efforts at recruiting excellence in performance brought women, African Americans and Hispanics into his program.
AAOS 2003-2004 President James H. Herndon, MD (left) presented the 2004 Diversity Award to Henry J. Mankin, MD, during opening ceremonies of the 2004 Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

For 28 years, he served as director of orthopaedics and orthopaedic oncology at the Harvard Combined Orthopaedic Residency program. An AAOS fellow since 1964, Dr. Mankin also served at Massachusetts General Hospital as director of residency programs.

“I have always felt that people's competence is independent of their ethnicity and gender,” said Dr. Mankin. The concept is so transparent to him; he's amazed that others have difficulty with it.

“Why should there be racial and ethnic disparities?” he wrote in 1999. “Why should women, African Americans and Hispanics be discriminated against by orthopaedic surgeons? There are numerous explanations; some may sound better than others, but in this author's opinion, all are spurious.

“Judge people only on what they are and are, in fact, put on earth to do: care for patients, teach and do research,” said Dr. Mankin. And make it a priority in orthopaedics, he could have added.

Evidence of success
A former resident, Colleen A. Kennedy, MD, PC, who has known Dr. Mankin for more than 20 years, recalled that members of his laboratory staff were a “rather diverse lot,” and came from many countries and cultures. Dr. Kennedy further recalled that Dr. Mankin developed a prominent orthopaedic program at the Hospital for Joint Disease, situated in the heart of Harlem in New York City.

“As a result of locating his program there, I think it could be said that he provided exceptional musculoskeletal care for underserved U.S. populations,” said Dr. Kennedy.

Valerae O. Lewis, MD, was the first African-American woman resident in the Harvard Orthopaedic Residency Program. “I am deeply indebted to him for his championing of African Americans and women in orthopaedics,” she said.

Dr. Lewis recalled that as a fourth-year Harvard medical student, she worked aside other medical students who, unlike her, seemed to be born with a sense of confidence and entitlement. Dr. Mankin offered her advice and mentorship.

“It is a mentorship that I have savored throughout my career,” said Dr. Lewis. “There is not a day that goes by where I do not think of the guidance and teaching that Dr. Mankin gave to me.”

Yolanda F. Roth, MD, FACS, said she would always appreciate the doors that Dr. Mankin opened for her as a female orthopaedist. She spent days upon days working with him in the operating room, in meetings, lectures and social settings.

“Dr. Mankin did not just teach but educated his fellows, residents and medical students and not just about orthopaedics and musculoskeletal oncology but also about fairness, the highest levels of morals, ethics, compassion and humanity toward all people absent of any traces of discrimination in all circumstances.

“By example,” she continued, “Dr. Mankin has cultivated the next generation of orthopaedists and medical practitioners to develop a Renaissance approach to and love of learning.

“He set the tone in his department by openly having zero tolerance for any discriminatory behavior toward anyone for any reason and demonstrating the highest level of morals and ethics toward all people at all times, regardless of gender or race,” Dr. Roth said.

Praise from his peers
Charles H. Epps Jr., MD, who submitted the nomination of Dr. Mankin for the Diversity Award, said, “While achieving high personal and institutional goals, Dr. Mankin has demonstrated a pioneering and exemplary leadership in promoting diversity by recruiting and training women, African Americans and Hispanics in the highly competitive Harvard program.”

Dr. Epps noted: “Dr. Mankin invited outside speakers of diverse backgrounds to speak to his department. Even I was the beneficiary of such an invitation.”

Perhaps Dr. Mankin's greatest satisfaction in life comes from teaching. Three years ago, the Orthopaedic Journal of Harvard Medical School was dedicated to Dr. Mankin, and his speech that day conveyed the joys and hidden benefits of teaching he experienced.

“The Talmud says that he who teaches learns twice,” Dr. Mankin said. “That is certainly true, and clearly anyone who knows something must get to know it better to teach it. It is further obvious that any good teacher is a learner, as well.

“There is just so much pleasure that one derives from teaching someone something,” he said, “and watching that person use that information to teach others, or to do something better than I could ever do. That is the greatest joy in the life of a teacher.”

And the greatest benefit to the teacher, according to Dr. Mankin? “It is the immortality of the contributions.”

Part of being a good teacher is passing on lessons acquired through life experiences. “Don't pick people to work with you because you want them to look like you and act like you,” Dr. Mankin said. “Pick them because they bring diversity to the job and because they can do a good job.

“A scientist is a scientist, not an African American person who does science,” he continued. “Everyone, regardless of origin, creed and gender, has something to contribute. Allow those precious differences that make people who they are, not only come out, but to be emphasized to improve quality and productivity and make the hospital and the caretaking system a better one.”

But as fervently as Dr. Mankin believes in the basic concepts of fairness and open access to opportunities, he realizes that attitudes don't change overnight.

“It is not easy,” he admitted. “It's a challenge to convert people to accept a diversity-supporting point of view, but it can be done, and it must be done. Talk about it openly, discuss it at meetings, hold symposia, make people aware of each person's needs and points of view.”

To learn more about the initiatives of the AAOS Diversity Committee—including the Diversity Award and Mentoring Program—visit the “Diversity in Orthopaedics” Web site at www.aaos.org/diversity.

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