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Education Institute

Dr. Lee Ramsay Straub: A Biography of the Father of Academic Training at HSS

Our Academic Training program at HSS is dedicated to Dr. Lee Ramsay Straub, one of the most distinguished physician-educators in the history of Hospital for Special Surgery.

Lee Ramsay Straub, MD

Teacher, doctor, and researcher, Dr. Lee Ramsay Straub embodied the three principal strengths of the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) that have enabled the institution to become a leader in orthopaedic and rheumatological care.

Many doctors have helped create the direction, mission, and success of the Hospital, but Dr. Straub is known for uniquely starting and spearheading education at HSS. Learning from Dr. Straub was an enriching experience. His successes in treatment and research gained him worldwide medical respect for the advancement of orthopaedic care. Dr. Straub set standards that have been followed to this day. Learning at HSS under any of our attending physicians is an invaluable experience for those wanting to join the ranks of internationally-known doctors and researchers.

For half a century, Dr. Straub's career was inextricably woven into the life and history of HSS. The key component for ensuring continued excellence in medicine is the ability to pass on knowledge. Dr. Straub took unusual pride in nurturing the talents of his students and guiding them through the rigors of their chosen specialty, year after year until his retirement in 1987.

Helping Patients to Walk Again - Patient Care

Dr. Straub's care for his students often lead to life-long relationships. He enjoyed nurturing them and watching them grow as professionals. What students learned from Dr. Straub was that patient care makes for a unique profession. Relationships with patients is perhaps what Dr. Straub taught best.

"Helping patients to walk again, to use their hands again" is what one son remembers about his father's passion for medicine. Dr. Straub spent long periods of time as a patient himself and was in a position of wanting to give himself entirely to the treatment and cure of those who called upon him.

A second son remembers that many patients came to his father due to the fact that other doctors were simple unable to deal with a patient's complaint. Dr. Straub believed that to tackle a difficult problem or to try a new medical treatment, a patient must have trust in the physician and must feel ownership of the treatment process. "Dad was often a patient's last hope."

A third and last son remembers this about his father, "His common sense, plus his people skills, made it easy for him to know the whole patient, way beyond what x-rays and tests would show." What all three sons echo is that their father was very generous with his time when it came to patient care. "Dad even went into the Hospital and visited his patients on Christmas Day every year." Common were Christmas holidays at the Straub household with guests who were patients on ambulatory stay celebrating with the family.

Biography, Accomplishments, and Contributions to HSS

After earning his medical degree from McGill University in 1940, Dr. Straub married Mary Caudwell and went on to complete a surgical internship at the University Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, and residency training in orthopaedic surgery at Hospital for Special Surgery. In 1944, he began practicing at HSS.

Dr. Straub took full responsibility for the Hospital's orthopaedic surgical and rheumatological services, for the institution's educational efforts, and for research. He was appointed to the faculty of Cornell University Medical College in 1951 and was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1954; to Associate Professor in 1955; and to Professor of Clinical Surgery in 1962. He retired from teaching and active practice in 1987, but continued in an emeritus capacity until his death in 1994.

Through lectures and published work, Dr. Straub left a rich legacy of clinical experience and research in a variety of areas, such as rehabilitation of patients with paralytic poliomyelitis, limb-lengthening equalization, muscle and tendon transfers, and reconstructive procedures for those suffering from arthritis and congenital deformities.

With special interests in the operative treatment of the hand and in rheumatoid arthritis, he founded the Hand Surgery Service and the Comprehensive Arthritis Program at Hospital for Special Surgery. Both became prototypes for the development of similar services across the nation. The annual Lee Ramsay Straub Distinguished Lectureship in Hand Surgery at HSS was established in his memory in 1994.

Dr. Straub trained hundreds of residents and fellows in the mechanics of surgery and the art of practicing medicine, and introduced them to the world of investigational research. Medical education at HSS is forever blessed with the successes, leadership and standards set by Dr. Straub.

In Memory: The Lee Ramsay Straub Hand Lectureship Series

Dr. Straub's contribution to the medical community went beyond the walls of Hospital for Special Surgery to a larger community of medical health professionals. He was a member of more than 25 medical societies and was elected President of the American Orthopaedic Association in 1967. He published more than 50 articles in orthopaedic journals and was a world leader in the field of hand surgery.

His dedication to his patients was renowned. He treated the prominent, including President John F. Kennedy, Adlai Stevenson and Van Cliburn, and volunteered his services for Orthopaedics Overseas (CAREMEDICO) in Vietnam.

Thanks to a wonderful response by grateful patients and respectful colleagues, HSS has created a permanent endowment for this lectureship. Learn more about the Visiting Professor Lecture Series.


Dr. Lee Ramsay Straub in 1985

Dr. Lee Ramsay Straub in his office at Hospital for Special Surgery in 1985.


Dr. Lee Ramsay Straub in 1968

In 1968, Dr. Straub was president of the American Orthopaedic Association. He is wearing the presidential medallion of the Association.

The Lee Ramsay Straub, MD Honorary Lecture in Hand Surgery