November 07, 2013

Nancy Solomon

Medical Missions: Part of SLU Orthopaedic Surgeon’s Routine

Dr. Howard Place Captures Med School’s Alumni Community Service Award

ST. LOUIS -- A Saint Louis University professor of orthopaedic surgery who has traveled a dozen times to Central America and Africa to bring medical care to those in need is the 2013 recipient of the SLU School of Medicine 2013 alumni community service award.

Philip Alderson, M.D., medical school dean, left, presents Dr. Howard Place with the SLU School of Medicine alumni community service award.

A 1983 graduate of SLU's medical school, Howard Place, M.D., is vice chair of the department of orthopaedic surgery and a SLUCare orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in spine and reconstructive surgery at Saint Louis University Hospital, SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, SSM St. Mary's Health Center and Mercy Hospital St. Louis.

"Dr. Place is one who truly embodies the Ignatian directive of service to others. His generous sharing of his time, talent and financial resources has helped to enrich the lives of many over the course of his life," said Philip Alderson, M.D., dean of SLU's School of Medicine.

Since 2001, Place has spent a week at a time in Haiti, the Dominican Republic or Kenya. Frequently at his own expense, he brought his wife who is a nurse and four of his five children on separate missions. These mission trips sometimes included undergraduate students who went on to pursue medical careers and orthopaedic surgery residents who donated their vacation time to serve others.

"The impact of my mission trips on my family and their personal lives and career choices has been significant," Place said. "I get more out of this than I ever give. It reminds me of why I became a doctor, and it makes me appreciate what I am able to do for people in St. Louis."

While in the Dominican Republic and Kenya, Place cared for patients with complicated spinal problems, doing as many as 18 spinal deformity procedures in five days. In addition to his services, he donated more than $3 million dollars worth of spinal implants and equipment to the Cure Hospital in the Dominican Republic and its patients.

He performed general orthopaedic surgery in Haiti, before and after the 2010 earthquake, and also cared for patients who have complicated spine problems.

Place earned his bachelor's degree in 1979 from the United States Military Academy at West Point and completed his orthopaedic training at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Aurora, Colo. He has served as chief of orthopaedic surgery at Fort Leonard Wood and chief of the orthopaedic service for the 47th Field Hospital in Desert Shield/Storm in 1990 - 1991.

He received the award at the 2013 SLU School of Medicine reunion last month.

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: infectious disease, liver disease, cancer, heart/lung disease, and aging and brain disorders.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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