The Colgate Scene
January 2007

People on the go
[Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

In 2006, C. McCollister "Mac" Evarts MD '53 was given the AOA-Zimmer Award for Distinguished Contributions to Orthopaedics by the American Orthopaedic Association. One of the field's highest honors, it recognizes outstanding leadership in the advancement of orthopaedics and contributions to orthopaedic surgery.

"For me to win, they exaggerated a lot of things," Evarts joked.

But didn't he help introduce total hip replacement surgery to the United States?

"Well, yes," Evarts admitted.

And wasn't he instrumental in studying and highlighting the prevention of thromboembolic disease -- the formation of blood clots -- in musculoskeletal patients?

Yes, yes he was.

With contributions like Evarts's, there's no need to exaggerate. Formerly the CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center and The Pennsylvania State University, Hershey Medical Center and now distinguished university professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Evarts has held the top leadership positions at academic health centers including the Cleveland Clinic. He has authored more than 200 journal articles and his resume lists more awards and accomplishments, including membership in the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, than a humble Evarts will tell you about unprompted.

Not bad for a man who went into orthopaedics because of his wife.

"I got the idea early on that I ought to be a doctor," Evarts said. But choosing his specialty was another matter. After medical school, Evarts was drafted and served on a Navy aircraft carrier where most of the non-fatal injuries involved bones and joints. When his tour ended, his wife said, "You've been reading a lot about orthopaedics. Why don't you do that?"

"I said, `no, I'm going to be a heart surgeon,'" Evarts said with a laugh. "But she persisted. You know how that goes -- I had no choice."

He began in the U.S. Naval Hospital as an orthopaedic ward medical officer, then moved to the University of Rochester as an instructor, then to the Cleveland Clinic. It was during his tenure there that he was invited to England to observe Sir John Charnley, the "father" of hip replacement surgery, in the operating room.

Evarts returned and began doing the revolutionary surgeries in the United States, but to hear him tell it, it was all in a day's work. "I came back and said, `this is what we're going to start doing.'"

Today, approximately 190,000 hip replacements are done in the States each year, and many surgeons performing those operations have been taught or influenced by Evarts. Having served as a professor and head of orthopaedic departments at both the Cleveland Clinic and Rochester, Evarts has watched a number of the institutions' students become successful physicians. That's something he is proud of, and it is also one reason he pledged the $50,000 he received for the Zimmer award to the C. McCollister Evarts Merit Scholarship Fund that he and his wife created at Rochester. Himself a recipient of a scholarship from Colgate, Evarts appreciates the importance of funding for students -- without it, he said, he couldn't have attended Colgate or gone on to medical school in the same way.

"I'm very grateful for it," Evarts said. "Orthopaedics is a magnificent specialty. You treat all ages, all kinds of people, and it's very broad. It's a spectacular privilege for me." And that, Evarts will assure you, is no exaggeration. — Vicki L. Wilson

[Cameron Weise © 2004]

Hanging off a granite rock face in Lake Tahoe 150 feet up, Kate Kimberly '01 was the sole woman in the group. Mark Wellman, famous adventure athlete and paralympian, had invited her on the climb, seeking out only people he knew were strong enough and stubborn enough to complete it.

And with good reason. The climb -- for paraplegic athletes -- required a one-mile hike to the rock's base, which meant pulling oneself along by the arms, bumping on one's butt for the entire distance, while towing a wheelchair.

"And then the climbing starts," Kimberly said.

Kimberly scaled that rock in 2004 with the help of adaptive climbing equipment fashioned by Wellman and a colleague.

"That was something that I never thought I would be able to do again," Kimberly said.

In March 2003, Kimberly fell 240 feet off a cliff while backcountry skiing, shattering her spine, causing what is called an incomplete spinal cord injury (she has hypersensitive feeling in her lower body and, although she uses a wheelchair, she is today regaining some leg function). For an avid skier and sportswoman, the accident was tough, the recovery demanding.

But so was Kimberly.

When she left the hospital, she immediately began searching for an adaptive bicycle. But she was shocked by the costs.

"You can buy an able-bodied beginner bike for about $100," she said. "The adaptive one was $2,000, and was the most basic you can get."

Friends and family came together to buy her the handcycle, but Kimberly knew that not everyone has that kind of support. When friends and family pitched in again to buy her a monoski through an indoor triathlon fundraiser, Kimberly immediately knew what she would do next.

With the help of co-founder Jaqueline Kelly, Kimberly created the Kate Kimberly Foundation in Boulder. The organization holds an annual indoor triathlon to raise money, among other things providing grants to recently injured individuals so they can purchase adaptive sporting equipment.

"The hardest thing to do is to read all the applications and have to choose," she said.

Kimberly, who skis, swims, and plays tennis, is doubly aware of how important recreation can be after being injured. In 2005, almost two years to the day after her skiing accident, she was a passenger in a car wreck that crushed most of the lower half of her body. Once again faced with hospitalization and recovery, Kimberly said her foundation and returning to her active life fed her determination to heal.

"It took my mind away from my troubles by being able to help others," she said.

Kimberly currently volunteers full time as the foundation's executive director. Her dream is to have the foundation become so well-funded that she can work there full time while still having enough resources to offer more grants and fulfill other needs for those living with spinal cord injuries.

"I never saw myself doing anything like this," Kimberly said. "But sometimes, things just fall into your lap, and you know they're right. This is something I need to continue, and I will do everything in my power to make sure it does."

One thing is certain: she's strong enough and stubborn enough to get the job done. — Vicki L. Wilson

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