postheadericon Masaki WATANABE – Who’s Who In Orthopedics

1911–1995 Professor Masaki Watanabe was born in 1911 in Nagano, and after gaining a BS in medicine from Tokyo Imperial University in 1937, he started training in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Tokyo Imperial University. He then began his research into arthroscopy under Professor Kenji Takagi. This work was interrupted by the Second World War, but in 1949 Dr. Watanabe became director of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Tokyo Teishin Hospital, where he put his heart and soul into the development of arthroscopy and came to be respected as the world’s leading exponent of the technique. In 1960, he developed the Watanabe Type 21 arthroscope, which became the standard instrument around the world for almost two decades, and in 1962, after great effort and research, he Who’s Who in Orthopedics succeeded in performing the first arthroscopic meniscectomy. Many of the world’s finest surgeons, including Dr. Robert Jackson and Dr. Richard O’Connor, visited Tokyo Teishin Hospital to learn arthroscopy. These surgeons faithfully passed on the teaching of Professor Watanabe to their own trainees. In 1974, Watanabe founded the International Arthroscopy Association , and was elected its first president. It is strange to recall that one of the purposes of the IAA was to prevent the technique slipping into obscurity as it had done previously in the late 1930s. In 1975, he was elected the first president of the Japanese Arthroscopy Association. He devoted his whole life to the development of the arthroscope, not only in Japan but also in the world. He received many prizes; in 1983, he was awarded the Asahi Prize, one of the largest scientific awards in Japan, for his unique contributions to the development and improvement of arthroscopy. I was one of Professor Watanabe’s students in 1972 and 1973. At that time he was already trying to develop a small arthroscope, video systems, and arthroscopic surgery. Even in the midst of busy research work, he handled the arthroscope very gently as if treating his beloved grandchild. Professor Watanabe stated in the preface of the Atlas of Arthroscopy , 2nd edition, in 1969, that it would give him great pleasure if arthroscopy were to bring about some progress in orthopedics and rheumatology. Now arthroscopic surgery is worldwide, for many joints. Arthroscopes are indispensable in orthopedics and rheumatology. He could hardly have foreseen that his work would lead to a revolution in the management of joint disorders or that arthroscopy would become one of the most frequently performed orthopedic operations. Professor Watanabe’s dedication to arthroscopy placed orthopedic surgery at the forefront of the revolution in minimal access surgery that is now sweeping the world of surgery. He died on October 15, 1995, of complications after the apparently successful treatment of a femoral neck fracture at Tokyo University and Teikyo University Hospitals. His delightful face, when he talked about arthroscopy in his hospital bed before he died, is an unforgettable memory. Who’s Who in Orthopedics

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