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No Second Opinions: Doctor Changed Lives

Physicians raise $2 million to honor Aaron Rosenberg, MD

Orthopedic surgeon Aaron Rosenberg, MD

By Benjamin Feldheim

Craig Silverton, DO, had just left his Air Force active duty tour with Joint Special Operations Command when he was called to Germany. He had been selected to lead the orthopedic department in preparation for the first Gulf War. Two years later, he returned to the U.S. and to reserve status with the Air Force. Considering his options, he applied for a fellowship in adult reconstruction at Rush with Aaron Rosenberg, MDJoshua Jacobs, MD, and Jorge Galante, MD.

Even Silverton admits he was an unlikely candidate. “I had been out of residency for several years and went through a totally different training program,” Silverton said. “When I showed up, I had a very basic understanding of total joints, but Aaron still took me under his wing. He changed the path of my life.”

After two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan as a combat orthopedic surgeon, Silverton went on to a successful career as an orthopedic surgeon in the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit — but he never forgot about Rosenberg. Twenty years after finishing his fellowship, Silverton decided it was time to thank his mentor. Silverton called Rosenberg’s longtime nurse, Regina Barden, and the two hatched their plan.

Together, they convinced other physicians who were mentored by Rosenberg, including Rosenberg’s partners at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, to join them. By the time they were done, 58 doctors had collectively donated $2 million to fund an endowed chair at Rush University in Rosenberg’s name.

'Philosopher and life coach'

An endowed chair, or named professorship, is one of the highest honors a Rush faculty member can receive. Future faculty who hold the chair can benefit from the endowment with funding for education and research efforts.

“To recognize his contributions, a material gift would simply have been inadequate,” said Barden, who has worked with Rosenberg for 30 years. “Aaron is more than an expert orthopedic surgeon: He's a teacher, philosopher and life coach. Throughout his career, he has helped fellows discover who they are as people and how to achieve balance between their personal lives and their careers.”

In July, just six months after starting their quest, the doctors and Rosenberg’s family gathered at the Chicago Arthroplasty Alumni Association dinner. Jacobs, chairman of orthopedic surgery at Rush, recounted Rosenberg’s accomplishments after the dinner and ended by announcing the endowment. Rosenberg never saw it coming.

“I was shocked that on my behalf a number of people were pursuing this,” Rosenberg said. “I felt humbled by it.”

Thirty-five years at Rush

The experience of training Silverton made an indelible impression on Rosenberg as well, and not just because of Silverton’s unusual background. “As a teacher and faculty member, I’ve found that the best moments are when you are learning as much from your students as you give to them,” said Rosenberg, who has been teaching and treating patients at Rush since 1979. “This was among the peak experiences of my life. Something about Craig made me perform at my best.”

Persuading Rosenberg’s partners and students to donate wasn’t difficult. Ray Wasielewski, MD, director of the Bone and Joint Center at Grant Medical Center, Ohio Health in Columbus, Ohio, was particularly grateful to Rosenberg for teaching him to approach difficult situations calmly when they arise. “I thought there couldn’t be a more worthy individual,” Wasielewski said about donating to a chair in Rosenberg’s name. “All residents and fellows who worked with him ended up the best they could be when Aaron was done with them. I don’t think anyone else could identify my exact weaknesses and strengths and then make my strengths better while also gently helping me correct my weaknesses.”

The endowed chair recognizes Rosenberg’s significant contributions to the Medical Center — and to its future. Humble as ever, Rosenberg said the honor cleared away any doubts he may have had about continuing to teach. “I’m at a point in my career where I wonder what my value will continue to be as I get older,” he said. “Being a teacher of surgeons is my passion. This honor gives me more confidence that I should continue to teach my way of being a physician and surgeon.”

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