1973 | History of Joint Replacement
The 1970s were a booming time for Orthopaedics in the United States as well as at Pinehurst Surgical Clinic. With the department growing exponentially and advancements being made on a global and national front, it was only a matter of time before they made their way to the clinic. One of those advancements was Joint Replacement, which is now one of the most commonly performed, elective surgical procedures in the United States. London surgeon Phillip Wiles performed the first successful total-hip replacement in 1938, and, after much improvement of the procedure, it was brought to Pinehurst with the arrival of Dr. John Ellis, who subsequently performed the first joint replacement in the area and formed the program here at Pinehurst Surgical Clinic (PSC).
For Dr. Ellis, medicine was in his blood. His father was a surgeon, and he had known growing up that he wanted to go into medicine as well. He attended both undergraduate and medical school at the University of Kansas before working with the Navy during the Vietnam War. His service in the Navy allowed him to work at San Diego’s Naval hospital in the ER and Orthopaedics wards on many different types of injuries and ailments.
From there, he studied at Washington University’s Barnes Hospital in St. Louis where, in 1970, approval was given by the FDA to perform the new joint replacements. This allowed Dr. Ellis to work more in-depth specifically in joint replacement surgery to develop his skills and talents that he would later bring to the clinic.
Upon completion of his Residency Program, Dr. Ellis and his wife, Nancy, had decided to live in a smaller town. Dr. Louis Daniel, who you may remember as the founder of the Orthopaedics department from a previous story, The History of Orthopaedics, reached out to Dr. Ellis’ professor, inquiring if he knew of anyone who may be able to bring joint replacements to the area. After Pinehurst Surgical Clinic brought Dr. Ellis out for a visit, he knew Pinehurst and Pinehurst Surgical Clinic was where he wanted to be.
Once Dr. Ellis arrived in July of 1973, it was full steam ahead! In fact, the clinic had set up his first appointments and surgeries before he even arrived. With his patients lined up and a team in place, Dr. Ellis performed the first total joint replacement surgery in the area at Moore Regional Hospital.
“Pinehurst Surgical Clinic was instrumental in supporting me and gave me whatever I needed. Both the hospital and the clinic were so supportive. When I came to visit the clinic, I loved the staff and everything they did for their doctors,” detailed Dr. Ellis.
For several years, Dr. Ellis did both General Orthopaedics and Joint Replacement while further developing the program. He also continued to present papers at various meetings and teach surgeons about joint replacements around the world, from Portugal to Mexico and beyond. In one such instance, he hosted a conference at the famed Carolina Hotel, where surgeons watched him perform a joint replacement at what is now FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital via live stream from the ballroom. He placed Pinehurst Surgical Clinic on the map and portrayed “truly specialized surgical expertise” wherever he taught.
The joint replacement program at Pinehurst Surgical Clinic was and still is recognized as a top program in the country. Dr. Ellis found that one of the biggest benefits and greatest assets at Pinehurst Surgical Clinic was the team he worked with and the support he received. “The team of nurses and techs were phenomenal. Having my own team was a huge part of why we were able to be so successful. When I would give talks, people would be amazed by my team and the approach we had,” he said.
While noting no challenges whatsoever, one of the biggest advancements Dr. Ellis witnessed while working at Pinehurst Surgical Clinic was the continuous improvement of the facilities. “I began when we were still in our original building which has since been torn down. Then we moved to a bigger building before building the main clinic facility that is now Pinehurst Surgical Clinic. Leadership always made sure we had the best facilities that were responsive to both the doctors’ and patients’ needs,” Dr. Ellis added.
It was the patient-centered approach that paid off in his eyes. “We are not a teaching hospital so everything is focused on what is best for the patient. The fantastic administration allowed us to not have to worry about anything so we could really focus on our patients,” detailed Dr. Ellis.
Overall since the program’s start, it has grown exponentially. “We were doing the same if not more joint replacements than the biggest hospitals in the region. PSC and the administration were very encouraging and allowed me to recruit doctors like Dr. John Moore and Dr. David Casey, who had fellowships in joint replacement and were even more specialized,” Dr. Ellis said. “By the time I retired, I knew the program was in very good hands.”
As the volume of joint replacements continues to rise, so does the program at PSC. In 2014 there were 370,770 total hip replacements and 680,150 total knee replacements alone in the United States; and by 2030, hip replacements are projected to surpass 635,000 and knee replacements to surpass 1.28 million in one year. Pinehurst Surgical Clinic is proud of the program established and of the accomplishments of the Father of Joint Replacement in Pinehurst, Dr. John Ellis. It is an important part of history and the Orthopaedic Surgery department looks forward to continuing to blaze the trail of medical advancements for years to come.