Friday, November 20, 2009

Recognizing an MGH innovator

PORTRAIT OF A PIONEER: From left, Henrik Malchau, MD, PhD, co-director of the Harris Orthopædic Biomechanics and Biomaterials Laboratory; Andrew Freiberg, MD, chief of the MGH Adult Reconstructive Surgery Service; Harris; Or-hun Muratoglu, PhD, co-director of the Harris Orthopaedic Biomechanics and Biomaterials Laboratory; and Rubash

In 1970, William Harris, MD, DSC, director emeritus of the MGH Harris Biomaterials and Biomechanics Laboratory, established the Advances in Arthroplasty course. Nearly 40 years later, Harris is now director emeritus of the course, which is held annually by the MGH Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in collaboration with the BWH Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and attracts participants from around the world.


Through keynote addresses, symposia, video vignettes and live surgery broadcasts, Advances in Arthroplasty offers state-of-the-art continuing medical education on hip and knee joint replacement, hip arthroscopy and the treatment of young patients with hip disease. A significant number of the advances shared over the years in the course were made by Harris and his colleagues.

Among Harris' many accomplishments is shedding light on osteolysis, the deterioration of bone tissue around a joint replacement implant, and his work in developing highly cross-linked polyethylene to counter the issue. He also is renowned for performing the world's first successful total hip replacement in a patient with a total congenital dislocation of the hip and for creating the first effective cement-free acetabular component.

In honor of Harris' lasting contributions, Warren and Lucia Prosperi -- who painted "The Birth of Modern Surgery," which hangs in the MGH Ether Dome -- painted Harris' portrait. The painting was unveiled Oct. 28 during the Advances in Arthroplasty course at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Cambridge and is now on display in the Harris Conference Room on White 10.

"The results of Dr. Harris' scientific work and teaching have been felt worldwide," says Harry E. Rubash, MD, chief of the MGH Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and one of the course directors. "Hundreds of thousands of patients have led longer and fuller lives because of his work. All of us who have had the opportunity to know him are dazzled by his extraordinary skill as a physician, teacher and scientist. We are privileged to call him our friend and colleague."

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