James H. Herndon, MD, MBA, FAOA
Honored as an AOA Pillar of the Orthopaedic Profession

James H. Herndon, MD, MBA, FAOA is being recognized as an AOA Pillar of the Orthopaedic Profession for his leadership, mentoring, and lifelong contributions to orthopaedic surgery during his distinguished career. The champions for this effort on his behalf are Sanford E. Emery, MD, MBA, FAOA, Christopher D. Harner, MD, FAOA, James D. Kang, MD, FAOA and Peter J. Stern, MD, FAOA.


James H. Herndon, MD, MBA is chairman emeritus of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Partners Healthcare (MGB) in Boston, Mass. In addition, he is the William H. and Johanna A. Harris Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Herndon graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine. After preliminary training in general surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, he completed a residency in orthopaedic surgery at the Harvard Combined Orthopaedic Residency Program and a fellowship in hand surgery with J. William Littler, MD. at Roosevelt Hospital in NYC.

After serving as chief of the Amputee Service at Valley Forge General Hospital during the Vietnam War, he was in private practice for 4 years in Michigan. He then spent 25 years as Chairman of three Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery: at Brown University, the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Medical School. While at the University of Pittsburgh he was also Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences and Vice President of Medical Services at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

His clinical interests included trauma, reconstruction of the upper extremity, arthritis, patient safety and medical errors. He has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles, numerous chapters and four books—including his recent “Birth of a Specialty. A History of Orthopaedics at Harvard and Its Teaching Hospitals.” His research has been supported by numerous institutions including the OREF, the Arthritis Foundation, AO ASIF, Department of Veterans Affairs, NIH and the U.S. Department of Education.

He has held numerous leadership positions, including president of: the Academic Orthopaedic Society (1990), the Association of Orthopaedic Chairmen (1990), the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (1991), the American Orthopaedic Association (1999), and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (2003); as well as Chairman of the Orthopaedic Residency Review Committee (1991) and Chairman of the Joint Committee on Surgery of the Hand.

Throughout his career, Dr. Herndon has won a variety of awards, including the Golden Apple Teaching Award from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh and two Partners in Excellence Awards from Partners Healthcare. In addition, he has delivered more than 50 keynote and presidential guest lectures at national and international meetings, has been awarded honorary membership in 7 international professional organizations (including the Royal College of Surgeons of England) and has received 3 honorary degrees–from Loyola University of Los Angeles, Brown University and Harvard University.

The AOA gratefully acknowledges Dr. Herndon’s extensive and comprehensive impact on the orthopaedic community and recognizes him as an AOA Pillar of the Orthopaedic Profession. 


I did not have the honor of training under Jim Herndon, but I have many colleagues that I admire and respect who haveI remember in my early years that Dr. Herndon was known as a leader, really a trailblazer in organizational success and system developmentOne of the earlier academicians to get his MBA and use it, he was successful at Brown, Pittsburgh, and HarvardDuring his career, he was President of the AOA, AAOS, and ABOS – wow!  There is no more deserving an individual as Jim Herndon as a Pillar of our Orthopaedic profession.

Sanford E. Emery, MD, MBA, FAOA
Dr. Herndon’s Co-Champion

“Over the years, I have had the privilege of being involved with many AOA pillars, and I can think of no one more deserving than Dr. James (Jim) Herndon. For over four decades, Dr. Herndon has both directly and indirectly influenced the lives of countless residents, fellows, faculty and practicing orthopedic surgeons. His commitment to patient care, graduate medical education, professionalism, and leadership to our specialty cannot be overstated. Dr. Herndon and his wife Gerry came to the University of Pittsburgh at the perfect time in my young academic career. As Department Chair, his influence was key to the development of my clinical and research career as well as my organizational involvement with the AAOS, AOA and ABOS. On behalf of myself, my wife Cindy, and all those involved in this nomination process, we extend our most sincere congratulations to Dr. James Herndon for his incredible contributions to our profession.” 

Christopher D. Harner, MD, FAOA
Dr. Herndon’s Co-Champion

“I trained under Jim Herndon in Pittsburgh and over those 4-5 years, I watched him transform the Orthopaedic Surgery program at Pittsburgh into a modern academic powerhouse.  The impact that he has had on the Pittsburgh Orthopaedic community was enormous and has not been fully recognized.  There is no question that Jim’s contributions have been overshadowed by the giants that came before and after Jim Herndon (Dr. Al Ferguson and Dr. Freddie Fu respectively), but Jim Herndon was instrumental during the transition of an old “private practice” model of academic Orthopaedics to that of a modern centralized department that exists to this day.  Dr. Herndon also gave me my first professional job after my fellowship, so I will be forever grateful for the opportunity he gave me.  In addition, I was a young attending learning and absorbing his political finesse in navigating the healthcare challenges both within a large health system as well as in the national arena.  He supported his residents and faculty and provided a wonderful environment for learning, teaching, and clinical care.  I feel strongly that my success as a Chair, here in Boston, is no doubt inexorably linked to Dr. Herndon. The mentorship and guidance in leadership he has provided over many decades to me as well as to hundreds of his trainees has no doubt impacted the field of Orthopaedics for the better.  He is clearly a “Pillar” in Orthopaedics…”

James D. Kang, MD, FAOA
Dr. Herndon’s Co-Champion

“In my book, Jim Herndon is a rare bird, a hall of fame orthopaedic surgeon. He is all about the right stuff; unwavering in his quest to advance our profession for patient safety and betterment. He has been a consummate leader (past president of the AAOS, AOA, and ABOS): educator (past chairman of 3 prestigious residencies); scientist (gene therapy) and mentor for all of us.”  

Peter J. Stern, MD, FAOA
Dr. Herndon’s Co-Champion

For a list of those who contributed to this Pillar honor, please click here.

If you are interested in becoming a Champion for an AOA Pillar of the Orthopaedic Profession, you can find more information here.

Entire listing of AOA Pillars of the Orthopaedic Profession can be found here.