David A. Spiegel, MD, Receives Humanitarian Award

By: Maureen Leahy

The Humanitarian Award is presented each year to a member of the Academy who has distinguished himself or herself through outstanding musculoskeletal-related humanitarian activities in the United States or abroad. This year’s recipient is David A. Spiegel, MD, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, in recognition of his dedication to improving the lives of people with orthopaedic conditions, particularly children, in underdeveloped regions. Dr. Spiegel was presented with the 2017 AAOS Humanitarian Award during the Your Academy 2017 event on Thursday.

In his nomination of Dr. Spiegel, Richard M. Schwend, MD, wrote, “Dave has had a tremendous impact on the delivery of essential orthopaedic care to underserved people in so many parts of the world, and has done so with great humility, selflessness, and courage. He is a tremendous ambassador for the AAOS; it’s hard to imagine a more qualified candidate for this award.”


David A. Spiegel, MD, receives the 2017 Humanitarian Award from outgoing AAOS President Gerald R. Williams Jr, MD.

A humanitarian from the start
Dr. Spiegel became involved in humanitarian activities right out of residency. In 1996, he spent a month working alongside Ashok K. Banskota, MD, founder of the Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre for Disabled Children (HRDC), in Banepa, Nepal. “It was a life-changing experience,” recalled Dr. Spiegel. “I was completely inspired by Dr. Banskota as he met the challenges of managing a spectrum of orthopaedic problems, often neglected, in a setting with limited resources.”

Since then, Dr. Spiegel has returned to Nepal 20 times, most recently 2 weeks ago. In 2015, he went back to join his friends and assist with treating patients who sustained orthopaedic injuries during an earthquake.

As the largest nonprofit pediatric orthopaedic hospital and rehabilitation center in Nepal, HRDC provides more than 1,500 surgeries each year to underprivileged children with physical disabilities. Dr. Spiegel serves as honorary consultant in orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation at HRDC and helps train orthopaedic surgery residents. He says the opportunity to develop close personal relationships with Dr. Banskota and his partners, as well as several graduates of the residency training program who are now staff at HRDC, is the most cherished aspect of his professional life.

Another rewarding experience has been the development of the Ponseti clubfoot project at HRDC. After its introduction in 2004, the method was subsequently adopted for the treatment of clubfoot in patients up to age 10. “The results have been extremely encouraging, and the number of extensive surgical releases for clubfoot has declined dramatically,” said Dr. Spiegel. 

Dr. Spiegel was part of a team that introduced the Ponseti method in China, and to date he has delivered more than 250 lectures on the topic in countries including Somalia, China, Iran, Mongolia, India, and Pakistan.

Teacher, author, crusader
Dr. Spiegel credits his experiences in Nepal with affording him unique insights not only into the natural history of pediatric orthopaedic conditions, but also the management of neglected conditions. He has disseminated this knowledge to residents and fellows at home through instructional course lectures, symposia, and textbooks.

In 2005, Dr. Spiegel became involved with the World Health Organization’s “Global initiative for emergency and essential surgical care,” which addresses gaps in the provision of essential surgical services. He has become, according to Dr. Schwend, “an international authority on the introduction of essential surgical services in economically underdeveloped regions.”

Dr. Spiegel has also served on the advisory boards of Ponseti International Organization, Miracle Feet, and Orthopaedics Overseas. He was chairman for 3 years of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America’s (POSNA) Committee on Children’s Orthopaedics in Underdeveloped Regions (COUR). He currently serves on the International Committee of the AAOS and leads the International Scholarship team.

“Dr. Spiegel’s activities have demonstrated a genuine desire to improve the total care, not just the quality of orthopaedic care, for people living in countries with limited resources,” wrote Kaye E. Wilkins, MD. 

Dr. Spiegel has been previously honored with POSNA’s Humanitarian Award (2013), the Walter P. Blount Humanitarian award from the Scoliosis Research Society (2016), the President’s Call to Service Award by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation (2006), and the Golden Apple Award from Health Volunteers Overseas (2009). However, he says he is particularly flattered to receive the 2017 AAOS Humanitarian Award. “To be recognized for doing something that gives me so much joy and that has made me a better surgeon and a better human being is amazing,” he said. “I look forward to many more years of contributing to initiatives aimed at reducing the burden of orthopaedic conditions in economically underdeveloped nations.”    


Previous Winners of the AAOS Humanitarian Award

2016      Richard A. Gosselin, MD

2015      John F. Lovejoy Jr, MD

2014      Scott C. Nelson, MD

2013      David S. Hungerford, MD

2012      Shafique P. Pirani, MD

2011      Taylor K. Smith, MD

2010      Larry D. Hull, MD

2009      David P. Roye Jr, MD

2008      Kaye E. Wilkins, MD

2007      Lewis G. Zirkle Jr, MD

2006      R. Richard Coughlin, MD

2005      Lawrence D. Dorr, MD

2004      Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, MD

2003      John R. Tongue, MD

2002      David Apple, MD

              Charles C. P. McConnachie, MD

2001      Ernest M. Burgess, MD

              Charles Hamlin, MD

2000      Charles H. Epps Jr, MD

              C. Scott Harrison, MD