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Thomas Parker Vail


Chair of Orthopedic Surgery
Leader in innovative hip and knee care

Dr. Thomas Parker Vail is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in joint replacement and other surgical treatments for hip and knee conditions. He is the UCSF James L. Young endowed professor and serves as chair of the orthopedic surgery department. Under his leadership, the department has become an international leader in patient care, research, education and global health.

Vail's research focuses on innovation in musculoskeletal medicine and training. He has special interests in performance and outcomes of surgical procedures and devices, delivery of care in hip and knee surgery, and cartilage injury and repair. He has particular expertise in tissue-sparing hip procedures to treat arthritis and joint degeneration, knee ligament balancing, effective pain management and rapid recovery strategies for patients receiving total joint replacements. He holds multiple patents for orthopedic devices and has served as an industry consultant, participated on scientific advisory boards and helped to start musculoskeletal device companies. While his highest priority has been translating laboratory discoveries into advanced treatments for his patients, he is proud of his legacy in leadership development, as reflected in colleagues, students and trainees with whom he has shared his time and experience.

Vail earned his medical degree at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. He completed a residency in orthopedic surgery and a fellowship in adult reconstructive surgery at Duke University.

Vail has published extensively on hip and knee surgery, surgical training and innovation, and health economics and patient care. He has received many academic honors as well as recognition for his patient care. He is past president of the Knee Society, American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons, and Eastern Orthopaedic Association, and past vice president of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. At UCSF, he has held multiple leadership positions, including medical director of the UCSF Orthopaedic Institute, which he conceptualized and helped build. He has served as co-chair of the UCSF Health Finance Committee, chair of the Funds Flow Committee and a member of the Executive Council.

  • Education

    Loyola University School of Medicine, 1985

  • Residencies

    Duke University, Orthopaedic Surgery, 1991

  • Fellowships

    Duke University, Adult Reconstructive Surgery, 1992

  • Board Certifications

    Orthopaedic Surgery, American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.

  • Academic Title


  • Languages


New developments in joint replacement have a huge impact on human life and health, and this inspires me.

Where I see patients (1)

    My reviews


    Overall Experience
    325 Ratings
    About our process
    Jun 05, 2023
    I said I would recommend him to my friends however he is retiring and won't be available. What a loss for all of us but how great for him to go on to other projects and teach. He is the very best!
    Jun 04, 2023
    I am very sorry to learn that Dr. Vail is retiring.
    Jun 03, 2023
    Too bad he is retiring! I count myself lucky to have had him replace my knee.
    Jun 03, 2023
    Superb in all ways
    Jun 02, 2023
    So impressed with the professionalism and care given.
    May 30, 2023
    I feel listened to and cared for by Dr. Vail and his team.
    May 28, 2023
    I'm sad that UCSF is losing such a wonderful doctor to retirement
    Apr 29, 2023
    Dr Vail is the greatest surgeon I have ever experienced. Did a fabulous job on my knee and his after care was superb
    Apr 07, 2023
    Dr. Vail is outstanding. I am going to miss him in his retirement. But I'm very grateful he is still teaching. We need more doctors who are as excellent and as king as he is.
    Apr 07, 2023
    So sad he's retiring but Dr. Vail is the best
    Mar 24, 2023
    Except that my care provider is retiring
    Mar 19, 2023
    Very through and caring
    Mar 12, 2023
    Dr Vail is a one in a million physician and he will be sorely missed! I have known him for many years and besides being a patient respectful soft spoken person he is a wildly talented and skilled surgeon. He performed my hip and both knee replacements with results even better than I hoped for! He has looked out for me and my wellbeing and I am beyond sad that I won t see him. I am also happy to know he will spend more time with his family. I am lucky to have had him help me and give me a bigger' life!
    Mar 06, 2023
    Thank you for this opportunity to answer questions that have come up as I plan for surgery
    Feb 21, 2023
    Dr. Vail has been absolutely stellar from the first time I saw him to when he did my procedure 10 years ago to this last followup visit.
    Feb 17, 2023
    I'm sorry he's retiring!
    Feb 10, 2023
    Dr. Vail is one of the most knowledgeable compassionate professional and handsome provider I ever met. He will be surely missed with my care is done.
    Feb 04, 2023
    Dr. Vail and his staff are all top notch
    Feb 03, 2023
    Dr. Vail explained the way we schedule the next appointment better than anyone else. He instructed me to schedule the follow up appointment 3-6 months prior. He even explained why.
    Feb 03, 2023
    Just a great experience
    Jan 20, 2023
    Great care!
    Dec 11, 2022
    I am so impressed with the wonderful staff at UCSF. No matter what question or concern I may have I always feel relieved and pleased with the answers and directions given to me by the doctor. Thank God for the wonderful staff at UCSF!
    Dec 11, 2022
    Dr Vail is the best!
    Dec 09, 2022
    Dr Vail Is a standard that other providers should strive to reach.
    Dec 02, 2022
    All excellent
    Dec 02, 2022
    Dr. Vail is the best!!!!
    Nov 04, 2022
    My surgery results are excellent mostly due to the skill of my surgeon Dr.Vail.
    Oct 19, 2022
    Exemplary is the word rather than just very good
    Oct 14, 2022
    Sep 30, 2022
    Very pleased with care provider actions.
    Sep 23, 2022
    Dr. Vail is wonderful! He did a fantastic job on my hip replacement and at this 6 week follow up appt I'm doing great!
    Sep 10, 2022
    Dr. Vail was very engaged in explaining options for this left knee after 5 replacements & over 10 years of working with me. I appreciate his frankness and kind manner.
    Sep 06, 2022
    Dr. Vail and his team are the best I have worked with in health care. That is a lot of years!
    Sep 02, 2022
    What more could I possibly say about this wonderful doc. He looked at me straight in the eye so that I knew I was being listened to and he was so clear about every little thing that he said. He should concern about another problem that I have and said that he would be there to help me if I needed the help later on. When I had a question or a decision to make he guided me through it so professionally. He is the best! I am so impressed with everyone at UCSF. This is the best thing that ever happened to me concerning medical help. Keep up the good work. I really am a fan.
    Aug 08, 2022
    Excellent care!!! Excellent surgery. Thank you.
    Jul 29, 2022
    My situation appears to be a rare one where the expertise and experience of a teaching and research university is most desirable.
    Jul 29, 2022
    Great physician and surgeon
    Jul 10, 2022
    Very professional physician
    Jun 03, 2022
    Excellent service! Kind and friendly!
    May 29, 2022
    Very satisfied with the results of my knee operation .
    May 13, 2022
    I felt very confident with this provider doing my hip surgery and followup care.
    May 02, 2022
    UCSF Dr. Vail and Dr. Vail's entire team were excellent and a pleasure to be with.
    Apr 29, 2022
    The home PT care was a great benefit in kickstarting my proper exercises
    Apr 21, 2022
    Referral to spine specialist.
    Apr 05, 2022
    Mar 25, 2022
    Dr Vail and his team are excellent in all aspects of patient care and caring! What a wonderful experience this has been from my first visit through surgery and recovery. I have total confidence in and respect for this team.
    Mar 24, 2022
    This is the first time I've met Dr. Vail. I really like him! So happy to be able to get an appointment with him. Thank you.
    Feb 18, 2022
    Very positive experience
    Feb 12, 2022
    This provider Dr T Vail is an excellent Doctor and very well informed great expertise wealth of knowledge and very easy to understand and he really listens to your comments!
    Jan 30, 2022
    My experience of UCSF hospital was amazing.
    Dec 17, 2021
    Dr. Vail is an exceptional person & great surgeon.
    Dec 17, 2021
    I trust and respect Dr Vail and staff.
    Dec 08, 2021
    Nov 10, 2021
    Dr Vail is a spectacular doctor/surgeon!! Excellent bedside manner. Calm knowledgeable and caring...what else can one ask for. We have already referred him to 3 other friends.
    Nov 10, 2021
    Grateful Dr. Vail was my doctor for both my knee replacements.
    Nov 05, 2021
    Dr. Vail takes the time to listen and answer any questions. He has given me the opportunity to provide input into my care. I highly recommend him.
    Oct 27, 2021
    Dr Vail was immaculate on timing very courteous did not bring a cell phone or smart watch. He gave 100 percent attention to all my questions and was in no hurry at all. Thanks Dr Vail for showing me so much respect
    Sep 18, 2021
    Dr. Vail did an excellent job on the surgery but my follow up visit 8 weeks later was the first time I had spoken to him post surgery. I felt that he was somewhat rushed to get on to his next appointment. I spent approximately 5 minutes talking to Dr. Vail. More than likely this was not his fault but was because he was so far behind time-wise. He was 35 minutes late for the appointment. It would have been nice if I didn't feel so rushed since I won't be seeing him for another year.
    Decorative Caduceus

    Antibiotic Prophylaxis in Patients Undergoing Elective TKA- Multi-center Trial


    Decorative Caduceus

    Dexamethasone in Total Knee Arthroplasty

    48 hours of cumulative opioid consumption measured in oral morphine equivalents