Welcome to the
Division of Orthopaedics

Orthopaedics at the U of T has a long tradition of developing innovative treatment approaches, performing research of the highest quality, developing new education programs, and providing clinical care of the highest quality possible. We are leaders in the field, and our faculty members play leadership roles nationally, and internationally. Read more »

Division Chairs for Orthopaedics - University of Toronto Orthopaedic Chairs 1976 - Today.
From left to right - Ben Alman (2006-Today), James Waddell (1996-2006), Robert Salter (1976-1986), Allan Gross (1986-1996).

Dr. Robert Bruce Salter

Robert Bruce Salter, C.C., MD, FRCSC. Dec 15, 1924 – May 10, 2010

R. SalterOver the fifty five years of his academic career, Professor Robert Salter saw many eras of academic orthopaedics including the incorporation of implants and technologies into clinical care, outcome-based research, molecular medicine, translational research, and evidence based care. However, he focused his efforts on what he termed “transformational research,” which fit into any of these eras. He defined transformational research as work that transforms the way we care for patients resulting in major world wide benefits. There is probably no other orthoapedic surgeon of the past decades who was so successful in transformational academic work as Robert Salter. His work not only helped the patients with the deformities and diseases he focused on, but his work inspired future scientists and health care practitioners by his approach to complex scientific questions. As such, he was an exceptional academic orthoapedic surgeon, excelling in patient care, education, and research, ultimately transforming the way we practice pediatric orthopaedics. His contributions to orthopaedic science have already helped millions and they will continue to benefit millions for generations to come.

Robert Salter started his medical career as a medical missionary for the Grenfell mission in Newfoundland following his education at the University of Toronto. He soon recognized that his passion for humanitarian endeavors could be best directed through medical science and he enrolled in the Gallie course in Surgery in the University of Toronto. After completing his residency, Bob moved to Britain for fellowship training, where he did research at the London Hospital working with world Orthopaedic leaders such as Sir Reginald Watson-Jones. There he was taught that immobilization for fractures should be complete, rigid, enforced and prolonged. Bob’s intuition told him that this dogma was false, and he challenged this concept, applying basic science principles to identify deleterious effects of joint immobilization. This work laid the foundation for his development of Continuous Passive Motion (CPM). Because of his work, immobilization of injured bones and joints is avoided whenever possible and CPM is applied to many clinical situations for millions of patients worldwide. He continued his philosophy that fundamental science provides the basis for the development of new therapies in his work understanding the pathophysiology of hip dysplasia, resulting in his development of the Salter Innominate Osteotomy, a procedure that is now used world wide. His observation of pediatric fracture patterns and their risk of growth arrest played a role in the development of the Salter-Harris classification of growth plate injuries.

R. SalterHis research work made him the best-known Orthopaedic Surgeon in the world, and he was one of the most popular speakers and visiting professors of his generation, traveling the world many times over. He visited scores of European academic centers, and was a Sir Arthur Sims Commonwealth Travelling Professor. Despite his busy practice and demanding research program he found time for leadership positions having served as Surgeon-in-Chief at Sickkids, Chairman of Orthopaedics in the University of Toronto, president of the Canadian Orthopaedic Association and president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. In recognition of the impact of his work he was appointed as a Companion of the Order of Canada, to the Order of Ontario, named University professor in the University of Toronto, received the prestigious Gairdner award for medical science, entered into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, elected a Fellow of the Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada and received numerous honorary doctorates and fellowships from universities and surgical colleges world wide.

One of Dr. Salter’s most notable contributions to Paediatric Orthopaedics was the establishment at The Hospital for Sick Children of the first Clinical Fellowship program in North America in the early 1960s. He had the foresight to understand that there was a need to enhance basic Orthopaedic training to meet the demands of the growing complexity of our subspecialty and promote research to improve the care of children and establish scientific credibility within our university medical centres. The Salter Society, an organization of former fellows and attending staff at Sickkids, has grown to more than 300 members who meet regularly. He was a founding member of the Paediatric Orthopaedic Society and was an enthusiastic supporter of the merger creating the Paediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America. In recognition of his contributions he was selected by POSNA for the Arthur H. Huene Award for Excellence in Paediartic Orthopaedics “for important contributions to paediatric orthopaedics” (1992), the Outstanding Achievement Award (“Pioneer Award”) “for lifetime achievement” (1996). Bob had an international vision and presence. He served at the president of the International Federation of Surgical Colleges, and received a merit award from that organization for his exemplary this international leadership. He was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Uppsala in Sweden, and was an honorary fellow of Royal Colleges in Surgery of South Africa, England, Ireland, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. He was also an honorary member of more than fifty medical organizations world wide, such as the Societe Francaise Orthopaedique et Traumatologique, the Scandinavian Orthoapedic association, the German Society of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, and the All Union Scientific Society of Traumatologists and Orthopaedic Surgeons of Russia. Few have had such an international impact on children’s orthopaedics.

Robert Salter was as complex as a man as were the problems he tackled. He intensely focused on his work and in the relentless in pursuit of his goals; he always had time to address even the smallest concerns of others both in and out of work. He would spend hours writing letters, making phone calls and meeting with individuals to address their problems or advance their careers. His generosity became legendary among patients, trainees, and colleagues. He knew the service and maintenance workers in the hospital by name and frequently stopped to enquire about their welfare or that of their families, and, upon discovering a need, would, to their amazement, set out to help them however he could. He loved to quote others, and one of his favorite quotes was that of Louis Pasteur who said “When I approach a child, he inspires me in two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become.” This was a guiding principle by which he treated his patients, and one which he strived to teach all who worked with him. B. Salter

Bob’s last day in the hospital was March 30th, 2010 when he was still able to contribute to a teaching seminar in a meaningful manner. His brief retirement was only six weeks long. We believe he would have no regrets that he did not live for long after completing his life’s mission. His promise to the children he treated was “friends for life!” and he meant it. The loss of this great man to his family, to the paediatric orthopaedic community and to the patients who benefited from his work is enormous. Let us keep him in memories and celebrate his monumental accomplishments for many years to come.

Benjamin Alman and John Wedge