Anthony F. DePalma

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Anthony Federico DePalma (October 12, 1904 – April 6, 2005) was an orthopedic surgeon, humanitarian, and teacher at Thomas Jefferson University, as well as the founder of the orthopedic department at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Biography[edit]

Anthony F. DePalma was born in Philadelphia in 1904, the son of immigrants from Alberona province of Foggia, Italy. He attended the University of Maryland for his premedical education, then Jefferson Medical College, from which he graduated in 1929. He then served a two-year internship (common at the time) at Philadelphia General Hospital. Jobs were scarce owing to the Depression, and he felt fortunate to obtain in 1931 a position as assistant surgeon at the Coaldale State Hospital, in Coaldale, Pennsylvania, a mining town. However, he became attracted to orthopaedics and looked for a preceptorship (postgraduate training in specialties was not well developed at this time before the establishments of Boards). In the fall of 1932, he was appointed as a preceptor at the New Jersey Orthopaedic Hospital, an extension of the New York Orthopaedic Hospital. In 1939 he acquired Board certification (the first board examination was offered in 1935 for a fee of $25.00) and was appointed to the NJOH staff.

DePalma volunteered for military service in 1942, and served first at the Parris Island Naval Hospital in South Carolina, then on the Rixey, a hospital ship. In addition to serving to evacuate casualties to New Zealand, his ship was involved in several of the Pacific island assaults (Guam, Leyte, Okinawa). In 1945, he was assigned to the Naval Hospital in Philadelphia.

On his return to Philadelphia, he contacted staff members at Jefferson Medical College, including the Chair, Dr. James Martin, and became good friends with Dr. Bruce Gill (a professor of Orthopaedics at the University of Pennsylvania, and one of the earliest Presidents of the AAOS). After he was discharged from the service, he joined the staff of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Jefferson, where he remained the rest of his career. He succeeded Dr. Martin as Chair in 1950, a position he held until 1970 when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 65. He closed his practice and moved briefly to Pompano Beach, Florida, but the lure of academia proved too powerful, and in January, 1971, he accepted the offer to develop a Division of Orthopaedics at the New Jersey College of Medicine and became their Chair. He committed to a five-year period, and then again moved to Pompano Beach, only to take the Florida State Boards and open a private practice in 1977. His practice grew, and he continued that practice until 1983 at the age of nearly 79. Even then he continued to travel and lecture.

He was the first Editor-in-Chief of Clinical Orthopaedics & Related Research, a major orthopaedic journal, from 1953-1966. He wrote several medical textbooks that are considered standards. After his retirement from teaching he practiced medicine in Florida, and then returned to Jefferson for a few years. Jefferson has an auditorium named after him and a painting of him in a lecture hall. He was the father of movie director Brian De Palma.

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