John J. Gartland, 98, a former chairman of, and the first full-time professor in, the orthopedic surgery department at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and a leader in the field who wrote six textbooks, died of heart failure Monday, Nov. 21, at the Haverford Estates retirement community in Delaware County.
Dr. Gartland didn't have to look far for inspiration to become an orthopedic surgeon. It grew from his experience as a child born with club feet.
Dr. Gartland wore leg braces until he was in high school. His childhood and adolescence were filled with doctor appointments and at least one surgery to correct an often-congenital condition in which babies are born with their feet out of position. Dr. Gartland's ankles were severely bowed.
"That was his exposure to orthopedics," said Dr. Gartland's son, John Jr., of Mickelton, N.J., also a physician. "It was the way they helped him" that set his father on a path to become a doctor.
Dr. Gartland, whose condition was eventually corrected, went on to become an internationally respected orthopedic surgeon, scholar, and educator who mended countless broken limbs. He served as president of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Orthopedic Societies.
Born in Philadelphia, Dr. Gartland graduated from the Haverford School in the mid-1930s and earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Princeton University in 1941.
He enrolled in Jefferson Medical College (now Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University) during World War II, graduating in 1944. The same year, he married Madelyn Duffy, whom he had met on the beach at the Jersey Shore.
Dr. Gartland worked and studied as an intern at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital before joining the U.S. Medical Corps in 1946. He served as a captain at Fort Meade in Maryland and was discharged in 1948.
Over the next 12 years, Dr. Gartland worked on the staffs of Methodist Hospital in South Philadelphia and what is now Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby Borough. In 1970, he returned to Jefferson and was appointed chief of orthopedic surgery. He also served as president of the medical school's alumni association and a member of the university's board of trustees.
He "guided the direction of orthopedic surgeons throughout the world during his tenure," said Alexander R. Vaccaro, current chairman of the hospital's department of orthopedic surgery.
Dr. Gartland remained chair of that department until 1985, when he retired from surgery but took on a new post. He volunteered for the next 23 years as the hospital and university editor, helping students and colleagues with their papers, projects, and articles.
"They gave him a corner office and all the coffee he could drink, and for him that was enough," his son said.
Dr. Gartland retired in 2008 at age 90. His portrait hangs on the third floor of the university's Scott Memorial Library.
His wife died in 2010.
In addition to his son, Dr. Gartland is survived by daughters Madelyn, Patricia Gartland Ivanoff, and Mary Ellen Henigan; 10 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Barbara Chandlee.
Friends may call at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29, at St. Margaret Church, 208 N. Narberth Ave., Narberth. A Funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Burial follows at Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken.
Donations in memory of Dr. Gartland's granddaughter Sarah Gartland, who died of a brain tumor at age 9, may be made to CHOP Foundation, Box 781352, Philadelphia 19178-1352.