February 2002 Bulletin

Serving those in need

Making a positive impact on people’s lives by improving quality of health care

2002 AAOS Humanitarian Awards announced

Orthopaedic surgeons, by using their skills, resources and energies, make a positive impact on the lives of many people. It has long been a tradition among members of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) to reach out to people who do not have the opportunity to receive high quality health care and provide that care on a volunteer basis.

To acknowledge two major examples of that tradition, 2001 AAOS president Richard Gelberman, MD, will present the third annual AAOS Humanitarian Awards to Charles C.P. McConnachie, MD, and David Apple, MD, during the opening ceremonies of the Academy’s 69th Annual Meeting on February 13 in Dallas.

South Africa benefits

In South Africa, one of the major barriers to health care is navigating through the oppressive legacy of apartheid. The impoverished city of Umatia, in the Transkei region of the Republic of South Africa, has benefited from the efforts of Dr. McConnachie, a Hendersonville, N.C. orthopaedic surgeon who has devoted his life to caring for the people in one of the world’s poorest locations on the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

In 1984, Dr. McConnachie and his wife founded the African Medical Mission, which was created to provide quality medical care for the underprivileged in South Africa. The mission provides support for the Bedford Orthopedic Center, the only orthopaedic hospital in the area, which serves about 4 million people annually.

Dr. McConnachie is the medical director and chief surgeon at the Center, and chairman of the governing board for the African Medical Mission. He is the only American orthopaedic surgeon on staff at the Center and he performs at least 15 surgeries a week.

In addition to his medical duties, Dr. McConnachie is responsible for raising funds to support the hospital.

"Dr. McConnachie has worked tirelessly over the years to create an effective musculoskeletal primary center in a under-served region battling tuberculosis, malnutrition, polio and increasing HIV," said colleague Richard Coughlin, MD. "The commitment and sacrifice of Dr. McConnachie has inspired the involvement of numerous medical professionals from the United States and Europe."

"Many people tend to ignore rural South Africa," said Dr. McConnachie. "We wanted to help this part of South Africa by improving the quality of health care in the broadest possible sense."

As a result of the example set by Dr. McConnachie, there are an increasing number of orthopaedic surgeons from all over the world who volunteer their services at Bedford Orthopedic Center.

Several years ago, Dr. McConnachie met with the President of South Africa, Dr. Nelson Mandela, and persuaded him to help in the raising of funds for the hospital. Dr. McConnachie’s plans are to continue building on to the hospital to make it one of the finest facilities in South Africa.

In recognition of Dr. McConnachie’s commitment to developing orthopaedic care in Transkei, the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, AAOS will donate $5,000 to Dr. McConnachie’s project.

Spinal cord injury rehabilitation

Last year more than 11,000 spinal cord injuries were reported in the United States alone. That is precisely why David Apple, MD, has worked tirelessly on behalf of people with physical disabilities by providing care for their injuries and supporting their transition back into the community.


For 30 years, David Apple, MD, served as team physician of the Atlanta Hawks professional basketball team. He later convinced the Hawks to sponsor a wheelchair division of the team_now called the Atlanta Rolling Hawks.

In 1975, Dr. Apple left his orthopaedic practice in order to develop a spinal cord injury rehabilitation center in Atlanta. "The plan was to start a center in Atlanta to provide care and rehabilitation treatment for tetraplegia and paraplegia patients" he explained. "There wasn’t a spinal cord injury rehabilitation center in the area and it allowed patients from Georgia and the Southeast access to quality care."

The Shepherd Center is now the country’s largest catastrophic care hospital, treating spinal cord and brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, neuromuscular problems and urological conditions. On average, Shepherd Center treats nearly 850 patients each year. Dr. Apple has served on the Board of Directors of the Center and as its Medical Director.

"The biggest change at the center during the past 23 years has been in outpatient services," said Dr. Apple. "The hospital also has a day program for patients to receive therapy while their families stay in a nearby apartment."

The center provides recreational therapy, assistive technology and an extensive research department that focuses on quality of life, adjustment to injury, prevention and treatment of secondary complications, and community reintegration issues.

"Dr. Apple’s efforts to incorporate rehabilitation as mainstream in the orthopaedic curriculum and in the orthopaedic life in our country have been unceasing and effective," said Angus McBryde, MD, professor, department of orthopaedic surgery, University of South Carolina. "The patients that I have referred to him unanimously respect his expertise, his willingness to communicate, his ongoing interest in rehabilitation and his humanitarian spirit."

In honor of Dr. Apple’s commitment to developing the Shepard Spinal Center in Atlanta, AAOS will donate $5,000 to his project.


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