“It’s our obligation – and our opportunity — to provide education in a whole new light and in a way in which our readers want to receive it.” – Scott Wolfe, MD
I’ve been interested in biology since junior high school. I’ve also had a longstanding interest in mechanics. Orthopaedics is perhaps the best combination of biology and mechanics, which became more evident to me as I went along in my studies. Hand surgery is the pinnacle of that combination because it involves so many tissues within the body, and such a variety of injuries and afflictions of the hand that affect everything from the vascular supply to the nerves to the bones, soft tissues, muscles, and ligaments. It was just incredibly intriguing for me. I did rotations in hand surgery even as a medical student and never looked back. I was greatly affected by some of my mentors — giants in New York whose passion and contributions to the field greatly impress me. They quickly became my role models and mentors and I decided that hand surgery was for me.
There are tremendous advancements today within the field of hand surgery that are truly revolutionary. Most impressive over the past decade are the advancements in nerve repair. Hand surgeons are perhaps most qualified for treating nerve injuries of the upper extremity, perhaps more so than neurosurgeons, because of their understanding of the delicate balance of tissues in the upper extremity. We don’t just look at the nerve. We consider the nerve’s effects on the muscles, the tendons, the bones, and the soft tissues. We treat the whole package, whether that includes tendon transfers, joint fusions, replacements, or otherwise.
We’re beginning to see advancements in the outcomes of patients that were unforeseen even two decades ago, specifically, for patients with severe injuries of their brachial plexus in the neck. We’re also achieving outcomes of shoulder and elbow recovery through very novel and innovative nerve transfer techniques. These advancements are only going to continue as we push the boundaries of biologic influence of soft tissue and specifically nerve repair. I think the next great frontier in nerve repair is how to get the nerve to regenerate quicker and reach its target organs quicker, while preventing the downstream effects, in order to successfully restore function to the limb.
For the first edition of Green’s Operative Hand Surgery, Dave Green assembled friends and colleagues, most of whom were actually trained at Columbia Presbyterian under Dr. Robert Carroll. To this day, it stands as the bible of hand surgery. Other textbooks have come and gone, but in looking at it critically, I believe the reason it remains is that it was a great idea, and it has equity — there have been six editions and it’s internationally published. Most important, though, are the authors. Many have been writing since the first edition, but others have been replaced over the years, or have stepped down, which breathes new life into each edition. One thing that Dave has insisted upon all these years is single author chapters where the expert incorporates his or her own personal expertise into a comprehensive chapter, based on evidence and experience. When readers need a quick solution to a problem, they can go right to the author’s preferred treatment in the chapter and learn from someone who has done hundreds if not thousands of these procedures, has every tip and trick, and knows what works. It’s expert opinion at the highest level.
Another factor that makes our textbook unique is the online version, which includes case histories and videos with analysis and demonstration of techniques. The online component has really come to life in the sixth edition. I only see that increasing in the future. I think we’re dealing with a new generation of people who have been brought up on the web, who learn and read on the web. They are not entirely shelving their textbooks, but they are reaching more and more for the web-based version. I think it’s our obligation if not our opportunity to provide education in a whole new light and in a way in which our readers want to receive it.
Scott Wolfe, MD is an orthopaedic surgeon and chief of the hand service at the Hospital for Special Surgery, and Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. He has authored more than 100 publications related to hand surgery, and is lead editor of the sixth edition of Green’s Operative Hand Surgery.
After finishing medical school at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Wolfe completed a prestigious hand fellowship as the Annie C. Kane Hand and Microsurgical Fellow at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. During his career, he has received many prestigious awards, including the Sterling Bunnell Traveling Fellowship, the Wayne O. Southwick Teaching Award, and the T. Campbell Thompson Award for Orthopaedic Excellence. Prior to his current positions at the Hospital for Special Surgery and Cornell, Dr. Wolfe directed the Hand and Upper Extremity section at Yale University.