James R. Urbaniak, MD, FAOA
Honored as an AOA Pillar of the Orthopaedic Profession

James R. Urbaniak, MD, 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 champion for this effort on his behalf is Annunziato Amendola , MD, FAOA.


Dr. Urbaniak graduated from Duke University Medical School in 1962.  He completed his orthopaedic residency training at Duke in 1969 with a brief tour of duty from 1963-1965 serving in the U.S. Navy as the Attending Physician to the United States Congress and Supreme Court.  He joined the Duke Orthopaedic Faculty in 1969 and served as Chief of the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery from 1985 to 2002.

Dr. Urbaniak is recognized as a pioneer in replantation of severed digits and hands.  For more than 40 years he conducted significant research in the area of microsurgical reconstruction of traumatized extremities and avascular necrosis of the femoral head.  His research was supported for over 20 years by RO1 grants from the National Institute of Health.  He initiated microsurgery at Duke in 1970 and led a microsurgery team that replanted more than 1,500 amputated body parts and more than 3,500 free vascularized fibular grafts for avascular necrosis of the femoral head.

Dr. Urbaniak has trained more than 320 residents and 180 fellows (many international) at Duke.  He has published more than 300 peer reviewed articles, 14 textbooks, 55 book chapters, and has been an invited speaker to more than 40 countries.

Jim has served as President of twelve national and international societies and boards including:  President of American Orthopaedic Association (AOA), American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), International Federation of Societies for Surgery of the Hand (IFSSH),  American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRMS), American Board of Orthopaedic Surgeons (ABOS), Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF), Eastern Orthopaedic Association (EOA), and Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS).

Some of Jim’s awards include:  AOA ABC Travel Fellow, American College of Surgeons (ACS), Thomas G. Sheen Award, The Kappa Delta Award of AAOS/OREF, AOA Distinguished Contributions to Orthopaedics Award, the Distinguished Southern Orthopaedist Award, IFSSH Pioneer in Hand Surgery, the Clinical Orthopaedic Society Elmer Nix Award for Medical Ethics, Duke Distinguished Faculty Award, the Duke Anlyan Lifetime Achievement Award, the Duke Master of Surgery Award, and the Duke Master of Orthopaedic Surgery Award.  His most cherished award is the Duke Orthopaedic Resident and Fellows Teaching Award (duplicate recipient).  His greatest passion is teaching residents, fellows, and medical students.  He is a kind, compassionate physician who is appreciated for his sense of humor, loyalty, and moral integrity, and respect for all people regardless of status.  In 2016 the James R. Urbaniak Sports Science Institute was dedicated at Duke.

Dr. Urbaniak has been an active and dedicated member of the AOA for a half century, e.g. ABC Travel Fellow 1973, President, Historian, and AOA Lifetime Achievement Award.  Although he has authored several books, without a doubt his favorite is “A History of the American Orthopaedic Association”, which reinforced his appreciation of the many initiatives (such as JBJS, AAOS, ABOS, RRC, and Travel Fellows) of the world’s oldest orthopaedic association.  As expressed in his text with the turn of the century the AOA major mission transitioned to using excellence to promote leadership in orthopaedic surgery.  Jim credits Muff, his devoted wife of 53 years, for his successful career.

The AOA congratulates Dr. Urbaniak on being recognized as an AOA Pillar of the Orthopaedic Profession and for his constant support of the AOA programs and leadership initiatives throughout his career. 


“I knew all about Dr. James Urbaniak long before I came to Duke because of his extraordinary career and academic contributions to our specialty: from creating the best hand surgery program in the world at Duke, bringing replantation surgery to the forefront, and developing the free vascularized fibula graft for AVN of the hip. Since I came on as faculty at Duke 7 years ago, with his office adjacent to mine, I have had the privilege of benefitting first-hand from what has made him a giant in orthopaedic surgery: he leads by example, he cares deeply for patients and all those around him, he has been a mentor to me and hundreds of colleagues and trainees. Dr. Urbaniak is a true leader in every sense of the word, not only at Duke, but worldwide, and embodies the definition of an AOA Pillar of the Orthopaedic Profession.”

Annunziato Amendola, MD, FAOA
Dr. Urbaniak’s 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.