Published February 25, 2019
Eugene R. Mindell, MD, the first chair of the Department of Orthopaedics at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and a pioneer in limb-sparing surgery for bone cancer patients, died Feb. 15 at his home in Canterbury Woods, Amherst, NY. He was 96.
Born in Chicago, Mindell attended the University of Chicago, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1943 and a medical degree in 1945, the same year he married a student from Buffalo, June Abrams.
He joined the Navy while in medical school and served as a Veterans Administration physician in Columbia, S.C., from 1945-1946. He then interned at Cincinnati General Hospital before returning to the University of Chicago for his residency. During that time he began focusing on bone cancer with some of the era’s leading osteosarcoma researchers.
In 1953 Mindell came to Buffalo, where he set up a private practice and was affiliated with Millard Fillmore Hospital and Buffalo General Hospital. In Buffalo he employed the bone resection and bone reconstruction procedures he learned from the pioneering researchers in Chicago.
“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.”
In 1964, Mindell was asked to become UB’s first orthopedist and to establish a new department in the medical school. He served as chair until 1988, establishing the area’s first bone bank for bone grafts, setting up a residency program and a bone research laboratory, and building the department into a nationally ranked program for training orthopedic surgeons.
A leading researcher who published more than 100 scientific papers and a pioneer in limb-sparing surgery, Mindell was also among the first to adopt chemotherapy in the treatment of bone cancer patients in the 1970s.
He was a founder of the Musculoskeletal Tumor Society and president of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, where he set up the board’s certifying process for orthopedic surgeons. In 1991, he was elected to the board of directors of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and served as chair of the academy’s Council of Musculoskeletal Specialty Societies.
Mindell received the Jacobs School’s Dean’s Award in 1986, the University of Chicago Distinguished Service Award in 1990, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from UB Orthopaedics in 2002.
He and his wife 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 in the school.
Survivors include two sons, David P. and Douglas G.; a sister, Audrey Rubin; three grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
Memorial gifts can be made in honor of Dr. Mindell to the June A. and Eugene R. Mindell, MD Fund in the UB Department of Orthopaedics.