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Frank Jobe: Forefather of Sports Medicine

A true forefather of American Sports Medicine, Frank Jobe, whose pioneering work preserved the careers of countless baseball players passed away on March 6, 2014 at the age of 88. His innovative spirit, professorial foresight and surgical expertise are epitomized in his revolutionary ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction technique, commonly known as Tommy John surgery. But equally central to Dr. Jobe was his dedication to family, friends, and peers. Dr. Jobe served as Head Team Physician for the Los Angeles Dodgers for an unprecedented forty years. During his tenure, he helped to found the Major League Baseball Team Physicians Association, serving as Secretary and President. His guidance helped to mold our organization and promote the medical care of all professional baseball players. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig described Dr. Jobe as “revolutionizing sports medicine”. Mr. Selig added “his wisdom elevated not only the Dodgers, the franchise he served proudly for half a century, but all of our clubs. Dr. Jobe’s expertise, as well as enthusiasm to mentor his peers, made the national pastime stronger.”

Dr. Jobe was born on July 16, 1925 in Greensboro, North Carolina. After graduating from high school in 1943, he enlisted in the army serving as a Medical Corpsmen in the 101st Airborne Division (The Screaming Eagles). His fearless dedication earned him the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Medic Badge and the Glider Badge. After his tour of duty in the army, he earned his bachelor’s degree from La Sierra University in 1949 and a medical doctorate from Loma Linda University in 1956. He completed his internship in general medicine at the University of Southern California in 1957 and worked for three years as a general practitioner. Spurred by his deep interest in orthopaedics, he returned to the University of Southern California and completed his orthopaedic residency in 1964. During that time he was befriended by Dr. Robert Kerlan, and together in 1965 they established a partnership that would change the landscape of sports medicine forever. The Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic, under Dr. Jobe’s and Dr. Kerlan’s guidance, has since provided care for countless athletes of all sizes and shapes, all ages, all types of sports, and all levels of competition. During his storied career, Dr. Jobe contributed to more than 140 medical publications, authored 7 books and 24 book chapters, and lectured globally on the treatment of the injured athlete. He served in leadership roles in numerous sports medicine societies, including the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (Chairman), American Shoulder and Elbow Society (Founding Member and Vice President), and Western Orthopaedic Association (Program Chairman). He served as a consultant to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports as well as Medical Director for the PGA Tour. Perhaps his greatest academic legacy is the mentorship that he provided throughout his career, educating over 300 orthopaedic surgeons in his fellowship program, with 17 becoming Directors of Sports Medicine Programs across the nation and 33 becoming Head Team Physicians for Professional Sports Teams, including an unprecedented 11 of the 30 Major League Baseball Teams.

Because of his dedication, expertise and judgment, Dr. Jobe became one of the longest tenured physicians in professional sports, gaining the universal respect of players, management and peers. His list of patients includes some of the most accomplished baseball players in Major League Baseball history. In 2003, he became the first physician to be named an honorary member of the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society, and in 2003 the Los Angeles Dodgers dedicated the medical facility at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida, in his name. In 2013, he was inducted into the Shrine of the Eternals by the Baseball Reliquary as well as receiving a special recognition award at the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame induction on July 28, 2013. Hall of Fame President, Jeff Idelson stated that “the groundbreaking work of Dr. Frank Jobe to conceptualize, develop, refine and make mainstream Tommy John surgery, a complex elbow procedure that has furthered the careers of hundreds of ballplayers, is testament to the positive role of medicine in our games growth.”

In spite of all his storied accomplishments, Frank Jobe remained a truly honest, genuine and caring man devoted to family and friends. The true testimony of Frank Jobe is the enduring impact he has had, not only on enumerable athletes, but on peers, friends, and family. The Major League Baseball Team Physicians Association owes him tremendous gratitude for his academic foresight, his clinical expertise, but most especially his brilliant friendship … he will be deeply missed … but his legacy lives on as a true forefather of sports medicine.

 

Michael G. Ciccotti, M.D.
Past Fellow, Kerlan-Jobe Clinic
Head Team Physician Philadelphia Phillies
  Christopher Ahmad, M.D.
Past Fellow, Kerlan-Jobe Clinic
Head Team Physician New York Yankees
  Stephen E. Lemos, M.D., Ph.D.
Past Fellow, Kerlan-Jobe Clinic
Head Team Physician Detroit Tigers
 
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