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Augustus  White

Augustus White

Scientist / Orthopaedic Surgeon


Dr. Augustus A. White is a scientist who has distinguished himself on several fronts, most notably orthopaedics. He was the Orthopaedic Surgeon-in-Chief at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston for thirteen years. Today he is the Ellen and Melvin Gordon Distinguished Professor of Medical Education, Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Professor Emeritus of the Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. He is former Advisory Dean of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Society, HMS. Read More >

Dr. White’s interest in orthopaedics stemmed from his experiences in athletics, first at Northfield Mount Hermon School where he was captain of the wrestling team and is in the Athletic Hall of Fame, and then at Brown University where he was a Varsity Athlete in football, wrestling, and lacrosse. A star athlete as well as a scholar, he became fascinated by orthopaedic treatment of sports injuries and specialized in orthopaedic surgery. Dr. White attended Stanford Medical School where he served as student body President. It was at Stanford that he became interested in the problem of back pain. Following graduation, he honed his skills at University of Michigan Medical Center as an intern, then at Presbyterian Medical Center, San Francisco where he was a general surgery resident. Dr. White went to Yale Medical Center, where he completed his orthopaedic residency. He then joined the US Army Medical Corps and served for two years and was awarded the Bronze Star. Following this he studied at the University of Gothenburg and at the Karolinska Institute, where he obtained a PhD for research on the biomechanics of the spine.

He later returned to Yale Medical School and became a full Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Director of the Engineering Laboratory for Musculoskeletal Disease, a currently active laboratory that he founded and subsequently developed with Dr. M. Panjabi. He was recruited to Beth Israel Hospital to start its first Orthopaedic Department. In collaboration with Dr. W. Hayes, whom he recruited, Dr. White originated that hospital’s Orthopaedic Biomechanics Laboratory. Both laboratories remain fully active. Over the years Dr. White has concentrated much of his teaching, research, and patient care on problems of the spine. He has trained 25 spine surgeons in the Daniel E. Hogan Spine Fellowship Program, of which he was the Director. While his professional life has drawn him to classroom, laboratory, and lecture hall, he is most committed to direct patient care.

Stimulated by a desire to better meet the challenges in healthcare management, Dr. White completed the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School, where he was selected by his classmates to deliver a commencement address. He is Past Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of OrthoLogic Corporation, now Capstone Therapeutics. Dr. White serves as a Director for OrthoLogic, and is a past Director of American Shared Hospital Services. He is a Director of Zimmer Biomet and the Chair of its Technology and Scientific Advisory Committee.

Dr. White was a member of the Brown University Board of Fellows for 11 years, a Brown Alumni Trustee for five years, and a past Alumni Trustee of Northfield Mount Hermon School. He is a Trustee Emeritus at WGBH Radio/TV and is a former member of the Board of Directors of The Partnership, Inc., both in Boston.

Dr. White is an internationally known, widely published authority on biomechanics of the spine, fracture healing, and surgical and non-surgical care of the spine. He has authored or coauthored more than 250 scientific and clinical publications including chapters, books, and articles. Most noted among his publications is the highly regarded definitive work, The Clinical Biomechanics of the Spine. This internationally used text, the first of its kind, is designed to present scientific material about spine biomechanics in a manner directly applicable to the care of patients with spine problems. A second edition of this book was published in 1990. A third edition is in process. Dr. White co-edited a book for scientists and physicians entitled Symposium on Idiopathic Low Back Pain. This work emanated from an international meeting chaired by Dr. White and designed specifically to review current knowledge and suggest future research on the scientific aspects of the cause and treatment of back pain. Convinced that patient education is a major factor in the successful resolution of back pain problems, Dr. White completed a second edition of a book for patients called Your Aching Back. This work was selected by Consumer Reports as the best back-pain book and has been translated and published in German. A third edition written with Dr. P. Phillips is forthcoming. In 2001, he co-authored a textbook with Dr. M. Panjabi, Biomechanics of The Musculoskeletal System. This book is designed to assist in the understanding of the role of engineering mechanics in the function of the musculoskeletal system. His widely recognized book titled Seeing Patients: Unconscious Bias in Health Care, published with David Chanoff in January 2011 is among a number of acclaimed publications on this topic. In September 2011, this book received the British Medical Association Book Award, one of ten “highly commended” books, in the Basis of Medicine category. 

Dr. White has committed himself to issues of diversity and is nationally recognized for his work in medical education and issues of healthcare disparities. He is the founding President of the J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society, a multicultural organization, and is committed to the society’s mission to eliminate musculoskeletal health disparities. He is a member of the National Advisory Board of the Stanford University Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and the Brown University Advisory Committee on Diversity. Dr. White was guest Editor of the journal Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, which published a symposium on “Issues of Minorities in Medicine and Orthopaedics.” He was the co-chair of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons supplement, “Professionalism, Diversity and Health Disparities.”

In the spring of 1989, Dr. White was appointed by the Board of Regents and the Chancellor to be President of the University of Maryland at Baltimore. Several weeks later, he resigned as a matter of principle in protest over a conflict with the Chair of the Board of Regents, who intended to remove two of the schools from the University.

Dr. White is a recipient of the United States Jaycees Ten Outstanding Young Men Award and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Medical Achievement Award. He is a recipient of the Bronze Star, which he earned while stationed as a Captain in the US Army Medical Corps in Vietnam, where he did extensive volunteer work in a leper colony. While working as a military surgeon in the leper colony, he discovered, described and published a scientific article about a previously undescribed disappearing bone disease. Among his research credits are the Kappa Delta Award, a national honor granted for outstanding orthopaedic research, and the Eastern Orthopaedic Association’s Award for excellent spine research. He was the recipient of the first William Rogers Award, given by the Associated Alumni of Brown University; this prize recognizes contributions to society and carries the words of the Brown Charter, “discharging the offices of life with usefulness and reputation.” Dr. White has received awards for professionalism in Orthopaedic Surgery. For outstanding contributions to the field of orthopaedics, he was selected by the American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) as the 29th Alfred R. Shands Lecturer. The Clinical Orthopaedic Society selected Dr. White for the Elmer and Rosemary Nix Ethics Award for “a life’s work in teaching by precept the ethical practice of Orthopaedic Surgery.” He received the Candle in the Dark Award in Medicine from Morehouse College. Stanford Medical School recognized him with the J.E. Wallace Sterling Lifetime Achievement Award for his exceptional contributions to medicine. The AOA’s Distinguished Clinician Educator Award to identify individuals worthy of public recognition for their efforts to further the art and science of orthopaedics was presented to Dr. White. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation presented the William W. Tipton Jr., MD, Leadership Award to Dr. White for work as an educator, mentor, and champion of diversity initiatives.

Dr. White is listed in Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in Medicine and Health-Care, Who’s Who Among Black Americans, American Men and Women in Science, and Town and Country magazine’s “Directory of Best Medical Specialists in the U.S.A.” He was listed in the Guide to America’s Top Surgeons and Guide to America’s Top Orthopaedists, both published by the Consumer Research Council of America.

He is a member of the AAOS, the AOA, the Orthopaedic Research Society, the Scoliosis Research Society, the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine, and the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. Dr. White is a charter member and past President of the Cervical Spine Research Society and its first African American to serve as President of this major orthopedic/neurosurgical international society. He also served as President of the Federation of Spine Associations. Dr. White was Chairman of the AAOS Diversity Committee and the Chair of the Harvard Medical School Culturally Competent Care Education Committee, each for five years. He has served at the National Institutes of Health as a member of the Advisory Council of the National Institutes of Arthritis, Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases. He was appointed as an initial member of the National Advisory Council of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, where he has served for five years. Dr. White was invited to give the Inaugural W. Montague Cobb Lectureship at the 2008 meeting of the National Medical Association. Dr. White was Director of a three-day Harvard Medical School Continuing Medical Education course entitled “Getting to Equal: Strategies to Improve Care for all Patients,” which was marketed nationally to physicians, nurses and health administrators, and presented by a national faculty. Read Less ^

Speech Topics

The Unconscious Bias in Healthcare: Diversity in Medicine & Cultural Literacy

Getting to Equal: Strategies to Improve Care for All Patients