SFGH surgeon receives humanitarian award

By Vanessa deGier

Richard Coughlin, MD -----

Richard Coughlin, MD, a trauma and foot and ankle specialist at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center and an associate clinical professor of orthopaedic surgery at UCSF, is being honored by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons with its 2006 Humanitarian Award today, March 24, at the organization’s annual meeting in Chicago.

The award recognizes an AAOS fellow who has distinguished him- or herself through outstanding musculoskeletal-related humanitarian activities in the United States and abroad. Included in the award is a $5,000 donation to Coughlin’s volunteer organization of choice, Orthopaedics Overseas.

Widely recognized for providing exceptional orthopaedic care to the poor and minorities, both in the U.S. and internationally, Coughlin has spent the majority of his medical career volunteering his time and expertise to ensure that quality orthopaedic care is obtainable throughout the world. 

“Rick has a strong history of leadership in volunteerism, both within this country and beyond,” said Theodore Miclau, MD, director of orthopaedic trauma at SFGH and professor and interim chair of the UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. “This well-deserved award highlights a career of giving to the underserved.”

Throughout his career, Coughlin has traveled extensively to reach people without access to adequate medical care. With more than 20 trips to developing countries, he has spent his personal time providing lectures, teaching surgical techniques and performing surgical interventions on children and adults in need. The many countries where Coughlin has performed surgeries include Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Russia, China, Vietnam, Venezuela, South Africa and most recently, Uganda.

In 1993, Coughlin joined the UCSF faculty full-time, where he helped establish an elective overseas clinical rotation for fourth-year orthopaedic surgery residents.  The highly successful month-long rotation, based in Mthatha, South Africa, attracts nearly 90 percent of UCSF’s orthopaedic residents. He received the Teacher of the Year Award in 1997-98 as well as the award for Outstanding Dedication to Resident Education in 2003. As a clinician at SFGH, he focuses on foot and ankle reconstruction and orthopaedic trauma.

“Dr. Coughlin’s implementation of an overseas rotation for senior residents at UCSF is an amazing accomplishment,” added Miclau. “He is among the most respected and admired teachers I know.”

In addition to training U.S. medical students and residents, Coughlin provides training to local physicians in developing countries through his involvement with Orthopaedics Overseas, which works to improve health care in developing countries though teaching and training. He has taught a course in orthopaedic surgery in developing countries as part of a workshop sponsored by the organization and is also a board member. He will take over as president of Orthopaedics Overseas this spring. 

Before joining the faculty at UCSF and SFGH, Coughlin and his private practice partner, Taylor Smith, initiated the orthopaedic division of Operation Rainbow, an organization that provides free care to children in medically underserved countries.  Showing his continued commitment to his community, Coughlin has also spent the past six years offering his services free-of-charge once a week to the dancers that make up ODC/Dance, a modern dance company based in San Francisco. He has also established the “healthy dancers” program at the company’s new Mission Dance Center. 

A resident of San Francisco, Coughlin attended the U.S. Air Force Academy before attending and graduating from the University of Maryland with a bachelor of science in psychology. In 1981, he completed medical school, graduating magna cum laude from the Universidad Centrale de Caribe in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He received his master’s degree in public health for developing countries at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in November 2004.
An accomplished author, Coughlin has written several articles advocating volunteerism in orthopaedics. 

The Orthopaedic Trauma Center at SFGH provides expert care for all aspects of traumatic musculoskeletal injuries, including inpatient and outpatient orthopaedic surgical care, rehabilitation, and orthotics and prosthetics. Surgeons and physicians from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at UCSF with specific training and experience in treating these conditions staff the Center. The SFGH Orthopaedic Trauma Center is a leader in orthopaedic trauma through its work in patient care, education, and research.

UCSF is a leading university that consistently defines health care worldwide by conducting advanced biomedical research, educating graduate students in the life sciences, and providing complex patient care.

PHOTO AVAILABLE: A photo of Dr. Coughlin is available upon request. Contact Vanessa deGier in UCSF News Services at (415) 476-2557.