Honoring Lowell Scott Weil, Sr., DPM, FACFAS

Lowell Scott Weil, Sr., DPM, FACFAS

April 25, 2023

This article was coordinated by Howard Zlotoff, DPM, FACFAS and is authored by several ACFAS members, friends, and family of Dr. Lowell Weil Sr. The purpose of this article is to recognize the immense impact and accomplishments Dr. Weil Sr. has had on the College, the profession, and across medicine in advancing the art and science of foot and ankle surgery. The Weil family and authors of this article want ACFAS members to know that Dr. Weil Sr. is currently battling Alzheimer's disease with the same vigor and determination he displayed as a leader of ACFAS. For members that would like to honor Dr. Weil Sr., you can make a donation in his honor to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. Every contribution helps to support research and finding a cure for this debilitating disease.  

Lowell Scott Weil, Sr., DPM, FACFAS, is a renowned foot and ankle surgeon, mentor, innovator, and friend to many. Throughout his career, Dr. Weil Sr. shared his talents with the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, which was culminated by serving as it’s President from 1993-1994. Because of his dedicated service and leadership to the College, Dr. Weil Sr. was a leading architect for the Annual Scientific Conference, which became a “can’t miss event” under his leadership in the early 1990’s, surgical skills courses, the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery where he served as Editor-In -Chief and building relationships across medicine to enable ACFAS to better advocate on behalf of the membership.  

Dr. Weil Sr., founder of the Weil Foot and Ankle Institute, was one of the first to get a DPM degree in 1964, practicing from 1965 until his retirement in 2018. Dr. Weil Sr. was one of the first sports medicine specialists in the profession, taking care of runners during the running craze of the 1970’s, serving as Team Podiatrist to the 1980 Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team, team podiatrist and podiatry consultant for the Chicago Bears for 25 years,  team podiatrist for the Chicago White Sox for 25 years, and Podiatry Consultant to the Chicago Bulls.  

Dr. Weil Sr. is known throughout the world for his development of the Scarf Bunionectomy, a revolutionary procedure that is still commonly used today internationally and has helped countless patients around the globe.  The osteotomy that bears his name is the most commonly performed surgery on the forefoot in the world.  He developed the first ever first metatarsal phalangeal joint replacement in the early 1970’s that is used as the FDA predicate for all that came after.   

He is also recognized for improving the outcomes of his patients by providing innovative treatments including developing joint replacements, incorporating ESWT, bringing in services such as extremity MRI and incorporating physical therapy to ensure patients were provided the best care, all within the confines of the podiatry office. His passion for patient care was evident in how he approached each and every day.

 A gifted foot and ankle surgeon, Dr. Weil Sr. started one of the first Fellowship programs in podiatric surgery, elevating the educational process for the profession and served as a mentor to many podiatric residents, American and International fellows throughout his career. He believed in providing the highest quality care to his patients, and he instilled this value in all who he trained with his philosophy, to “treat people, not feet.”  

The Northlake Residency program, created by Dr. Weil Sr. was widely considered to be the most sought-after surgical program in the United States. With a robust team of 10 first-year residents, two second-year residents, and several office-based residents, the program offered a comprehensive and immersive learning experience that combined hospital-based training with private office-based learning that didn’t exist elsewhere in podiatry at that time. The program was renowned for its annual surgical seminar, which was considered the finest in the country and featured guest speakers from the podiatric and global orthopedic community. This helped to establish a strong reputation for the program, earning it significant credibility and eliciting envy from colleagues in the American orthopedic community. 

Dr. Weil is known as the greatest ambassador of Podiatry and throughout his career attended hundreds of international and American orthopedic conferences, often as an invited lecturer.  Through the science that he presented and the relationships he built, podiatry has been able to be elevated as a result of the banner that he always carried for the profession and ACFAS. 

Dr. Weil’s contributions to the field of foot and ankle surgery will continue to be remembered and celebrated for generations to come. Below are several letters that were received from across the profession highlighting the extent and impact Dr. Weil Sr. had on the profession, their careers, and their personal lives.

We also invite you to listen to the ACFAS podcast episode, A Dialogue with Lowell Weil Sr., DPM.

The Podiatric community knows about Lowell Weil's contributions to our success and specialty. Lowell's influence reaches far beyond the walls of podiatric medicine. I have the honor to call Lowell a partner, friend and mentor. No matter how busy Lowell was, he always found the time to answer questions or concerns I had in practice or in life. Certainly, his vast knowledge of medicine helped me become a better podiatrist. When facing personal challenges, Lowell provided counsel to me like my father and was there to talk to and to listen to. Because of Lowell's experience as a father and leader, I became a better person. Lowell, as always, thank you for being my friend and mentor. May God Bless you.

The first time I met Dr. Weil Sr, was at my interview. I had heard him lecture once before but couldn’t get close to him after the lecture because it seemed everyone there wanted to talk to him or had a question for him. As he and Dr. Weil Jr, had just finished surgery and were up the stairs coming to meet me for my interview, I heard them discussing golf and their swings. After introductions and asking how a few of my attendings back in Philadelphia were, it seemed the conversation went right back into golf. For the next 3 hours the three of us talked in great detail about golf and baseball. I felt so included and welcomed that I totally forgot to ask any questions about the fellowship. It was like I had known Dr. Weil Sr and Jr for a long time. 

For the people who were lucky enough to know Sr. knew this side of him. The side that made you feel welcomed, the side that made you want to be a better person, surgeon, doctor, the compassion he had for his patients as well as his employees. He is a man that has always given all he could in life regarding his family, profession, and community. A man that is and will always be larger than life in my eyes.  I can say unequivocally say that completing the fellowship and having Dr. Weil, Sr as my mentor is the most important and influential factor of my professional career. I would not be where I am today if it were not for Lowell Scott Weil, Sr. DPM, FACFAS.  

Having this terrible disease hit so close to home in someone whom we all love and cherish so much, makes me proud to get involved in something that is so worthwhile as this. The ACFAS Initiative is a great idea and I know that Dr. Weil Sr. would be proud.

From 2006-7, I was afforded the opportunity to spend a year of Fellowship training with The Weil Foot and Ankle Institute. Little did I know at that time, it was not just a year it would last a lifetime!  Learning from and observing Dr. Weil, Sr. in the operating room and clinic allowed me to hone my own skills and bedside manner. As a fellow we were fully immersed in the day-to-day operation both clinically, and on the business side.  These experiences were extremely important to my continuing education prior to transitioning to clinical practice. I often recount stories to the residents I currently work with about Dr. Weil, Sr.  

As much as I learned about being a Podiatrist and business owner from Dr. Weil, my most memorable times were of him being himself not in the world of Podiatry.  When I was a fellow, my daughter Amanda was about 1.5 years old and loved to come to the office to have lunch with me, or so I thought. She really wanted to come and see the waterfalls in the office, as I learned later... One day as I was leaving the surgical center, I could hear her giggling and running up and down the hallway. Thinking she was causing trouble I quickly hurried to make sure she was not disturbing patients waiting to be evaluated. As I turned the corner, I could see my wife standing in the hallway laughing. Dr. Weil, Sr. was playing hide and seek with Amanda, and she was having the time of her life. For at least 4-5 years after moving back to Massachusetts, Amanda would refer to Dr. Weil, Sr. as Dr. Waterfalls.  

Just prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, my wife and I joined the Weil's at their vacation home with other fellows for a reunion. He was starting to have some memory difficulties but was able to tell some amazing stories of both when I was a fellow and about other fellows. His wife Nancy or Dr. Weil, Jr. were often nearby if he became stuck on a particular detail to keep his thoughts on track. One evening my wife needed Tylenol for a headache, and only Ibuprofen could be found. Unfortunately, due to her oral chemotherapy she could not take the Ibuprofen. We were able to find some back at our room at the hotel later that evening. The following day Mrs. Weil informed us that Dr. Weil, Sr. searched his entire home looking for Tylenol and would not go to sleep until he found some. When we arrived the next day to their home, he handed her a plastic bag with Tylenol in it so she could carry the medicine on our adventures that day in case it was needed again.  

These are the experiences with the Weil's that are most meaningful for me as I learned what truly is important in life. I learned a lot about Podiatry from Dr. Weil, Sr., but being a kind, caring person is what truly matters. As a retirement gift for Dr. Weil, Sr., Dr. Wenjay Sung created a book comprised of messages from previous fellows. I looked back to see what I wrote, and it is still true to this day.  "The likelihood that you meet a person in your life that will give you significantly more than you will ever give to them is slim to none." I like to think I pay it forward when I transition the knowledge, he impressed upon me to residents I currently teach.  

I am very proud to have been Trained and Taught by Dr. Weil Sr.  Among many items to recall there is specifically an overlying concept, that is; to never be satisfied with good enough by asking the question 'why'.

HIs legacy is that not only has he made me, and many others, a better Doctor, but the lessons taught carried over to my life in general and made be a better person, father, husband and member of my community helping me to improve the human experience of many lives outside of my Podiatric work.

I did my fellowship year during 2013-2014 at The Weil Institute in Chicago.  Having the honor and privilege to work directly with Lowell Sr for a year was truly indescribable.  Both in the OR and clinic, Lowell Sr always made it a point to get to know me personally, what my goals were in my career and what my passions were.  He fostered a learning experience that challenged me and to never just accept “that’s good enough”, but always trying to find ways to self-improve and grow.  He has shown this same discipline throughout his career, sharing his experience of going to his first orthopedic academy meeting and having to watch the lectures while hiding out in the media room to overcoming adversary and becoming one the most well-respected foot and ankle surgeons in both podiatric and orthopedic realms.  He never gave up, breaking down the walls and barriers that separated the two specialties, but showing and proving that we are wanting to achieve the same goals regardless of degrees.  I will forever be grateful for Lowell Sr as mentor, as a leader, as pioneer and as a friend.

Everyone has a Dr. Weil story that can express the uniqueness of who he is.  My story begins back in 1997 while working for his daughter at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Since that time, I have countless stories that would be able to write that encompass him professionally and personally.   

In 2017, we were both at an international foot and ankle meeting in Lisbon, Portugal.  I didn’t know many people at the meeting; however, it seemed like Dr. Weil knew everyone there!  At every turn, he was talking to participants about a procedure or how to deal with a complication.  Throughout the meeting, he introduced to foot & ankle surgeons around the world as I kept telling myself “Who doesn’t he know?” as seen in the picture with Dr. Samuel Barouk. 

His stories are legendary, his passion was contagious and his influence on the profession is undeniable.  As a profession continues to grow, let us continue to carry ourselves with the level of intellect and skill that honors the giants, such as Dr. Lowell Weil, Sr., on whose shoulders we stand.   

The words I've prepared to express my gratitude do not seem sufficient for the man who truly shaped me as a person and a professional in Podiatry for over 40 years.

Having just come to the US for college and Podiatry school, I was not the most confident student due to the struggles of a different language and being in a new country. I certainly questioned my career decision, that was until I was accepted to Northlake Community Hospital in Chicago where I first met Dr Lowell Weil Sr. As you might imagine that year was my turning point. 

Not only did Dr Weil instill confidence in me, but he also lit a fire within us all to constantly strive for more. Dr. Weil taught me to never be satisfied with the status quo; to be my own worst critic, and never stop looking for a better way to care for patients and improve our profession. He took good students and built great professionals. 

We became great friends after my residency where we spent time professionally and socially together, with his incredible family. Every moment spent with him was filled with thought-provoking comments and left me with nuggets of wisdom. There are many great stories I could share, but what I admired most about Dr. Weil was his family values and his brilliant energy that inspired others in work and life. His words of encouragement, mentorship, and friendship will live with me forever. My words are not enough, but that is all I have. Thank you.

“But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made” is the first line of a reading Dr. Lowell Weil, Sr gave at our wedding. These are words never lost on us professionally or as life partners. Dr. Weil Sr is our mentor personally and professionally. He taught us to believe in yourself and make a decision, no matter if it was a life decision or a decision in the operating room. Words cannot express our gratitude for the influence, guidance, and direction he provided to us over the years.

I would not be where I am at today professionally if it wasn’t for Dr. Lowell Weil Sr. He gave me a chance when no one else wanted to. He vouched for me when no one knew who I was. He stood by me when questioned. I will forever be in awe and in debt to this man who continues to inspire me through his own life and career.

Lowell Weil was my residency director at Northlake Hospital and my mentor.  He taught me to excel academically, professionally, and personally.  He served as an example of single-minded dedication, unwavering work ethics, good judgement, and moral character.  I think of him often and his influence on me and my life remains strong.

My very first face-to-face interaction with Lowell Scott Weil, Sr, DPM, FACFAS was at the ACFAS meeting in Los Angeles, CA in 1999 when I heard him lecture on ESWT therapy for plantar fasciitis. I was trying to make a positive impression since I had just applied for the Weil Foot & Ankle Institute Fellowship. In 2000, 1-year fellowship programs of this quality simply did not exist. “Sr” is an imposing figure and I only managed to mumble a few incoherent comments to him. Thankfully, he did not remember my botched introduction. Or at least he didn’t mention it. 

One thing that the public may not realize is just how funny Sr. is. I learned of his humor when I was granted an interview in person for the fellowship. I had spent countless hours fretting over the type and color of my application printing paper along with struggling through all the formatting issues associated with the beta version of Microsoft® Windows Millennium edition. I watched him read through my CV, nodding his head as he turned through all 10 pages. When he was done, he said, “This is really nice paper” and then handed it back to me. I still get a chuckle over that one and have countless memories of my experience as a fellow. Simply put, the single most influential professional experience of my life and Sr’s. mentorship helped sculpt my entire life for the better. I’ve never met anyone who truly cares more about making the most out of every interaction, professionally and personally. This is why I find Sr’s. affliction with Alzheimer’s disease so unfair. Above all he loves his family and has always been a dedicated husband, father and grandfather.  

I believe this ACFAS initiative would be one Sr. would be proud of. I also believe that because it is him who has Alzheimer’s that awareness of this awful disease will spread more rapidly, have a deeper meaning for those who learn of his affliction, and will continue his legacy of disseminating knowledge worldwide as he has done his whole life. My family has donated to the Alzheimer’s Foundation to support eradication of this devastating disease both for those currently afflicted and for future generations to come. Please join me.

What a giant in Podiatric Surgery and Life. We have had a long history together going back to the late 60’s. He was creating a huge Surgical program at Northlake Hospital, and I was the New Chairman of the Department of Surgery at CCPM and Podiatry Hospital.  

It became a race to see the West Coast vs the Midwest creation of Podiatric Surgical Education. During that time, we became great friends and colleagues. Together, I think we changed the direction of Podiatric Surgical Education and had great respect for one another. 

Lowell was, is and always will be the champion of surgical innovation, education, and a guiding light for the now and future of Podiatric Surgery. Hard to bear witness to his struggle with a vicious disease. In life, we have doers and followers, Lowell’s followers are legend.

I would not be where I have been for over fifty years either professionally nor personally had it not been for my friend and colleague Lowell Weil, Sr. and I have great affection for him and his family.

I have had the distinct honor to call Dr Weil Sr both my colleague and my father-in-law. As a professional he was the consummate pioneer, entrepreneur, innovator, mentor, and role model.   Some of my fondest professional memories are being with Dad in the OR and going to conferences with him. Personally, family always came first no matter how busy he was. He taught us the art and importance of work/life balance- and he did it brilliantly.  

Dedication to My Teacher

Little did I know that being accepted to the Northlake Hospital Residency Program in 1975 would have such a positive impact on my life. As the director of this program, Dr Weil created an educational experience that gave me the surgical expertise to move forward in private practice with the competence and surgical judgement that served my patients well and allowed me to find success and joy in my career.

 Residents expect to learn surgical skills and techniques to assure successful outcomes. However, Dr Weil, through his own demeanor and behavior, emitted a sense of confidence and assurance both in the operating room and with patients that I have tried to copy. As an extern, I trembled in the operating room as he would say "justify your presence Zlotoff". I would grab a retractor off the back table and find something, anything, to retract! 

Once in private practice, I also realized how difficult it is to hand over a scalpel to a resident and guide them through an operation on your private patients! Knowing that any mistakes might compromise the success of the operation or complicate the post operative care floated in my mind. But Dr Weil made this commitment to my education and I felt the need to pay it forward as I trained residents over the past thirty five years.

 If that wasn't enough, I have come to see him as a friend and family man where he is again a powerful influence in my life. We share our love of family, friends and loyalty to those who fill our days with blessings. I am a very lucky man to have him as part of my life. To thank him seems trivial but to let everyone know what kind of a man he is as a doctor and friend seems like the least I can do. I can only pray that he finds peace and comfort as he and his family share the battle against Alzheimers Disease.