History of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery


The Department of Orthopaedic Surgery traces its origins to the nineteenth century and its long-term association with Bellevue Hospital. When Dr. Lewis Albert Sayre was appointed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Fractures, and Dislocations at Bellevue in 1853, it represented the first orthopaedic professorship in North America.

Dr. Sayre held this title, and later that of Professor of Clinical Surgery, until 1898, when Bellevue Hospital Medical College merged with University Medical College of NYU to become the NYU School of Medicine. Among the distinguished graduates of the medical school are Walter Reed, the conqueror of yellow fever; Joseph Goldberger, who demonstrated the dietary origin of pellagra and its control; and Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, who developed the first effective vaccines against poliomyelitis.

The Hospital for Joint Diseases opened, in 1906, as the Jewish Hospital for Deformities and Joint Diseases. The mission of its founders, the physician-brothers Dr. Henry W. Frauenthal and Dr. Herman C. Frauenthal, both graduates of Bellevue Hospital Medical College, was to provide full-spectrum orthopaedic treatment to the poor of New York City.

In 1904, the brothers had briefly opened a clinic on Lexington Ave; its great success led to establishing the hospital based on similar ideas and from HW Frauenthal’s10-year assistantship with Dr. Sayre. The original seven-bed hospital was a modest brownstone on upper Madison Avenue in Harlem. Over almost two decades, the hospital expanded.

In 1979, the orthopaedic section moved to its current location at 301 East 17th Street and was named The Hospital for Joint Diseases Orthopaedic Institute. It merged in 2006 with NYU Medical Center to form a single institution.

Both institutions thus share in the great strides made in the twentieth century in orthopaedic treatment, knowledge, and innovation.

Read more about the history of the Hospital for Joint Diseases.