Fall 2006

Surgeon's Work Earns Humanitarian Award

UCSF orthopaedic surgeon Richard Coughlin, M.D., has spent more than two decades bringing his skills to underserved people around the world. This year, the foot and ankle and trauma specialist at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) was recognized for this work with the 2006 Humanitarian Award from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Included in the award is a $5,000 donation that Coughlin will direct to the organization through which he has done so much of his humanitarian work, Orthopaedics Overseas, which works to advance orthopaedic care in developing countries through teaching and training.

"Rick has a strong history of leadership in volunteerism, both within this country and beyond," said Theodore Miclau, M.D., chief of Orthopaedic Surgery at SFGH and acting chair of the UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. "This well-deserved award highlights a career of giving to the underserved."

Coughlin attended the U.S. Air Force Academy before attending and graduating from the University of Maryland with a bachelor of science in psychology. In 1981, he completed medical school, graduating magna cum laude from the Universidad Central de Caribe in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He received a master's degree in public health for developing countries at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in November 2004. An accomplished author, Coughlin has written several articles advocating volunteerism in orthopaedics.

Creating Opportunity for Others

An initial volunteer trip to Guatemala in 1991 kindled Coughlin's interest in overseas work. Subsequent trips have taken him to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Russia, China, India, Vietnam, Venezuela, South Africa and Uganda. Coughlin has also helped to expand opportunities for other surgeons to work abroad.

Before joining the faculty at UCSF and SFGH, Coughlin and his private practice partner, Taylor Smith, M.D., initiated the orthopaedic division of Operation Rainbow, an organization that provides free care to children in medically underserved countries.

In 1993, Coughlin joined the faculty at UCSF, where he helped establish an elective overseas clinical rotation for fourth-year orthopaedic surgery residents. The highly successful month-long rotation, based in Mthatha, South Africa, attracts nearly 90 percent of UCSF's orthopaedic residents. He received the Teacher of the Year Award in 1997-98, as well as the award for Outstanding Dedication to Resident Education in 2003. As a clinician at SFGH, he focuses on foot and ankle reconstruction and orthopaedic trauma.

"Rick's implementation of an overseas rotation for senior residents at UCSF is an amazing accomplishment," added Miclau. "He is among the most respected and admired teachers I know."

In addition to training U.S. medical students and residents, Coughlin provides training to local physicians in developing countries through his involvement with Orthopaedics Overseas, the largest division of Health Volunteers Overseas. He has taught a course in orthopaedic surgery in developing countries as part of a workshop sponsored by the organization and recently assumed the position of chairman of Orthopedics Overseas.

Richard Coughlin can be contacted at (415) 206-8812.

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