James B. Steichen, M.D., one of the original founders of The Indiana Hand Center, was recently awarded the “Pioneer of Hand Surgery” by the International Federation of Societies for Surgery of the Hand in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The IFSSH awards “Pioneer of Hand Surgery” status to any person who excels exceptionally, beyond what is normally expected in the field of hand surgery. The enormous contribution of the Pioneers to Hand Surgery will influence many generations of Hand Surgeons to come. Ultimately of course, their accomplishments will benefit countless patients far into the future. Current partner Thomas J. Fischer, M.D. was in Buenos Aires to receive the award.
“Dr. Steichen was always devoted to his patients and always devoted and dedicated to education of his fellows. He was a classic educator who taught you how to take care of patients in the best way possible by example. He was an excellent clinical surgeon with skills that his fellows desired to emulate. He was an organized articulate lecturer. He taught his fellows how to approach complex problems in a logical fashion; and once I was in practice, he was the partner that I would go to for advice when I was presented with either difficult patients or difficult problems that I needed to solve.” said Jeffrey A Greenberg, M.D., who trained under Dr. Steichen as a fellow and worked with him as a partner at the Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center.
Dr. Steichen’s professional career began at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He graduated with an MD degree in June 1967. He then went on to complete an internship at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke in Chicago, Illinois; and ultimately, completed his residency in orthopedic surgery at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. Concurrent with his final 6 months of orthopedic residency, Dr. Steichen completed a fellowship in hand surgery with Dr. Jim Strickland at The Indiana University School of Medicine and St. Vincent Hospital. Dr. Steichen was certainly a pioneer as subspecialty orthopedic fellowships were not routinely completed in the early 1970s. Following his residency and fellowship, Dr. Steichen served 2 years in the United States Army at Reynolds Army Hospital in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he was the chief on the orthopedic service with a rank of Major.
Following military service, Dr. Steichen’s interest in microvascular surgery was evident as he sought additional training at a time when microvascular upper extremity reconstruction was in its infancy. Dr. Steichen was a research fellow in microsurgery with Mr. Bernie O’Brien at the St. Vincent Hospital Microsurgery Research Center in Melbourne, Australia. He spent time with Dr. Tsuge and Dr. Ikuta at Hiroshima University School of Medicine Department of Orthopedic Surgery in Hiroshima, Japan, and with Dr. Harry Buncke at The Ralph Davies Medical Center Franklin Hospital in San Francisco, California.
Dr. Steichen then returned back to Indiana where he started his clinical practice solely devoted to hand and upper extremity reconstruction with an emphasis on microvascular reconstruction. He and Dr. Jim Strickland cofounded the Indiana Hand Center (now known as Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center).
Dr. Steichen was the first vice president of The Indiana Hand Center from 1975 to 2000, member of the board of directors from 1975 to 2006, and the managing partner from 1988 to 1992. Dr. Steichen held hospital appointments at St. Vincent Hospital, Indiana University School of Medicine Hospitals including University Hospital, Riley Hospital for Children, Robert W. Long Hospital, Roudebush Veterans Administration Medical Center and Wishard Memorial Hospital. He also had appointments at Methodist Hospital of Indiana, Community Hospital of Indianapolis, Winona Memorial Hospital, Decatur County Memorial Hospital and at The Surgery Center of Hand Surgery Associates of Indiana. He held academic appointments at the Indiana University School of Medicine and was a clinical assistant professor from June of 1975 to 1982, a clinical associate professor from 1982 to 1989, and achieved the rank of clinical professor of orthopedic surgery in July 1989. He also held academic appointments at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky eventually achieving the rank of associate professor of plastic surgery on the voluntary faculty.
In 1972, Dr. Steichen was the first fellow in the Indiana Hand Center program. Once he began his clinical and academic practice, he was an integral part of the faculty, educating fellows and residents in hand and microvascular surgery. The fellowship that he helped establish was based out of Indiana University Medical Center and St. Vincent Hospitals and has developed into one of the most prestigious and sought after hand, upper extremity and microvascular fellowships in the United States. Dr. Steichen provided clinical teaching for nearly 200 fellows until his retirement in 2006. Many of the fellows that he influenced have gone on to lead strong academic hand surgery careers and many of his former fellows have become influential leaders in the field of hand surgery and various hand surgical societies. In addition to teaching hand fellows, Dr. Steichen was also involved in the education of the orthopedic and plastic surgery residents from Indiana University. He also instructed plastic surgery residents from the University of Kentucky that would travel to Indianapolis to do their hand surgery rotations. Over the years, he also influenced a number of residents and young attendings that visited the center not only from the United States, but from countries world-wide.
The majority of Dr. Steichen’s research interest had to do with microvascular reconstruction. Dr. Steichen was the founder and the former director of the microvascular surgery lab for fellow and resident training and research in Indianapolis. As part of his research activities, he was integral to the development of the 3M microvascular anastomotic coupler. He worked extensively with the 3M company researching and developing this device prior to its release and taught extensively nationally and internationally on its use. In 1991, Dr. Steichen was awarded the Sumner L. Koch award at the annual meeting of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Dr. Steichen also received 3 grants for clinical research projects including projects to evaluate upper extremity outcome following radial artery harvesting for coronary artery bypass surgery, a prospective evaluation of the 3M microvascular anastomotic system, and a grant to investigate the design and development of microsurgical instruments, which were eventually manufactured and distributed by Stille-Werner and are still in use today.
Dr. Steichen has edited or co-edited 3 books. Difficult Problems in Hand Surgery was published in 1982 and was a textbook that surgeons would refer to when faced with uncommon or difficult problems that were not addressed in more traditional text books of hand and upper extremity surgery. He worked with other microvascular surgeons to develop a Microsurgery Skills laboratory manual, which was published in 1984 and was a manual that budding microvascular surgeons could refer to as they were developing microvascular reconstructive skills. Finally, he worked with Dr. Tsuge on the Comprehensive Atlas of Hand Surgery, and he was the editor of the English language text version of this atlas published in 1989.
Dr. Steichen’s abilities as a clinical and academic educator reached a worldwide audience. Over the course of his career, he not only was involved locally and nationally, but also participated in many international societies. He was either a honorary or corresponding member in the Italian Microsurgery Society, the South African Society for Surgery of the Hand, the Venezuelan Society for Surgery of the Hand, the Brazilian Society for Surgery of the Hand, Colombian Society for Surgery of the Hand, the Swiss Society for Surgery of the Hand, the Group for the Advancement of Microsurgery in Canada, the Brazilian Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery, French Society for Surgery of the Hand, Japanese Society for Surgery of the Hand, Luxembourg Medical Society, and the National Academy of Surgery of France. He served as the president of the International Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery from 1993 to 1996 and was active in that organization since 1985. He was the vice president of the Pan-Pacific Surgical Association and also a member of the International College of Surgeons, International Federation of Societies for Surgery of the Hand, Group Pour L’advancement de la Microchirurgie Canada, the International Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery, the Pan-Pacific Surgical Association, the Societe Internationale de Chirurgie, The Bernie O’Brien Society, and Harry J. Buncke Society.
On a national level, Dr. Steichen was also very active, he has been invited to address groups all over the United States more than 60 times. He has been a member of the American Medical Association, the American Fracture Association, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the American College of Surgeons, the Hand Study Society, the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery, American Orthopedic Association, and the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons. He was a very active member in the American Society for Surgery of the Hand serving as a chairman on a number of committees and task forces. He served as the chairman of the annual meeting program committee, the annual residents and fellows conference committee, the American Federation Task Force committee, the chairman of the combined meeting of the American and Japanese Societies for Surgery of the Hand, the chairman of the hand surgery practice committee, and also served on the executive council as a member at large from 1983 to 1985. He was also active in the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery serving not only on a number of committees, but on the executive committee including serving as the president in 1989. Over the course of his career, Dr. Steichen was the recipient of numerous professional awards and honors. He received the physician’s recognition award from the American Medical Association. He received the distinguished physician award from St. Vincent Hospital and Health Services. He received the Docteur Honorist Causa awarded by the University Henri Poincare in Nancy, France. He was nominated to the honorary council of Luxembourg. He was awarded a Sagamore of the Wabash by the Governor of the State of Indiana and also the physician community service award by the Indiana State Medical Association. Dr. Steichen was also recognized by the general assembly of the State of Indiana for his 25-year contribution to medicine in the state of Indiana in 2001.
The partners of the Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center are appreciative that the International Federation of Societies for Surgery of the Hand has recognized the great contributions of Dr. Steichen. The Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center continues to thrive in the tradition and mission that Dr. Steichen helped establish.