Published February 26, 2019
Eugene R. Mindell, professor emeritus and founder and the inaugural chair of the Department of Orthopaedics at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, died Feb. 15 in his home in Canterbury Woods, Amherst. He was 96.
Mindell was recruited to UB in 1964 to found the Department of Orthopaedics. He had begun focusing on bone cancer in the late 1940s during his residency at the University of Chicago, where he had worked with some of the leading osteosarcoma researchers. Those researchers were pioneering bone resections and bone reconstruction, procedures Mindell used when he first came to Buffalo in 1953 and set up a private practice.
He was serving as a volunteer lecturer to UB medical students when he was asked to become the university’s first orthopedist and establish a new department in the medical school.
While at UB, he established the area’s first bone bank for bone grafts, set up a residency program and a bone research laboratory, and built the department into a nationally ranked program for training in orthopedic surgery.
Mindell served as department chair until 1988. He wrote a history of the department in 2002 and continued to attend seminars and medical school functions.
A leading researcher who published more than 100 scientific papers, and a pioneer in limb-sparing surgery, he was among the first to adopt chemotherapy and new surgical procedures in the treatment of bone cancer in the 1970s.
“The survival rate changed from less than 20 percent to around 70 percent,” he told Orthopedics Today in 2005. “Instead of amputation, patients could now receive a limb-sparing operation. It became possible to save lives, as well as limbs. That was the big turnaround.”
Prominent in several professional organizations, he was one of the founders of the Musculoskeletal Tumor Society and was president of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, where he set up the board’s certifying process for orthopedic surgeons, and the Orthopaedic Research Society.
In 1991, he was elected to the board of directors of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and served as chairman of the academy’s Council of Musculoskeletal Specialty Societies.
He was deputy editor for the Journal of Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research and associate editor and member of the board of trustees for the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.
He was the recipient of the Jacob School’s Dean’s Award in 1986, the University of Chicago Distinguished Service Award in 1990, the Lifetime Achievement Award from UB Orthopaedics in 2002, the D’Youville College Achievement in Health Care Award in 2002 and the Distinguished Service Award from the Erie County Medical Society in 2012.
He and his wife, June, a Buffalo native who died in 2010, endowed the June A. and Eugene R. Mindell Chair of Orthopaedics in the Jacobs School. He also established the annual Eugene R. Mindell and Harold Brody Clinical Translational Research Award for junior research scientists at UB.
A native of Chicago, Mindell received a bachelor’s degree, as well as a medical degree, from the University of Chicago. He joined the Navy while in medical school and served as a Veterans Administration physician in Columbia, S.C., in 1945 and 1946, caring for soldiers and veterans. He was an intern at Cincinnati General Hospital before returning to the University of Chicago for his residency.