Lessons From a Legend - Gary P. Jolly, DPM, FACFAS
Our profession, and specifically your College, lost a legend when
Gary P. Jolly, DPM, FACFAS, passed away on January 30, 2010 after a courageous
battle against cancer.
At the 2009 Annual Scientific Conference, Dr. Jolly spoke at a
session entitled “Legends Corner,” where he could speak about anything
he wished. Dr. Jolly was already diagnosed with cancer, his face clearly
showing the changes of a long hard fight. His speech was moving,
insightful, and, upon reading, you may be compelled to “pick up the
colors and lead” your profession into the future.
As I approach my 30th year of practice, and approach the twilight of
my career, looking back at the growth of our specialty gives me a
wonderful sense of accomplishment. When I began as a first-year medical
student, there was no separate designation for foot and ankle surgeons.
Everyone was a podiatrist, and everyone in clinical practice was a
A few, typically Fellows of the American College of Foot Surgeons, as
it was called back then, also engaged in foot surgery. Although
hospital privileges were available to some, most podiatrists performed
surgical procedures in their offices without the benefit of sedation or
general anesthesia. This was the state of our profession in 1971.
My first exposure to clinical podiatry was in the outpatient clinic
at the old Pennsylvania College of Podiatric Medicine (PCPM). The clinic
wasn’t air conditioned, and summer clinics were physically brutal. What
I found even more brutal was the limited practice that was podiatry at
that time. As a well-educated, assertive, and impatient youth, I had a
very difficult time correlating the depth of my pre-clinical education
with the provision of routine care.
And then a wonderful thing happened. Harold Schoenhaus, DPM, and
later Guido LaPorta, DPM, joined the faculty at PCPM. Dr. LaPorta became
my mentor as a student and resident. He was a surgeon with an
incredible mind who thought “outside of the box.”
What exactly does outside the box mean? It means to think critically,
not accepting implausible explanations to clinical problems; and not to
be afraid of being an iconoclast if, after studying the problem, you
arrive with a different set of ideas.
I decided that I wasn’t particularly enchanted with the idea of
practicing general podiatry. I wanted to be a foot and ankle surgeon.
When I shared my aspirations with faculty and colleagues, I was laughed
at by friends and rebuked by teachers for over-reaching.
I am extremely fortunate for a great number of reasons, not the least
of which is the honor that I have to be a teacher to our Yale
residents, fellows, and students. An amazing thing happens when I share
my personal philosophy — they listen and they get it! What a difference
30 years makes.
The landscape of podiatry during the last three decades has changed
dramatically. By foot and ankle surgery becoming an acknowledged
sub-specialty within podiatry, recognition and acceptance by the medical
community has been achieved. Although there may still be pockets of
resistance, hospitals and clinics, including orthopedic practices, are
now open to us.
Surprisingly, there are still some within podiatry who are opposed to
our specialty. In fact, there are those within the “leadership” of the
profession who would prefer to restrain us in order to create a more
homogenous profession. Should we roll back our education and experience
to achieve their goals?
Progress is inevitable. In medicine and dentistry, the development of
specialization occurred many decades ago. It was only natural that such
specialization should occur in our profession as well. Failure to
recognize the inevitable is shortsighted and foolish. While some in the
profession have abandoned the College, the College has not abandoned the
I would also like to address a few remarks to our young members,
particularly those who are still in residency. The ACFAS Fellows you see
here today, as well as those who have gone before us, have opened up
the professional world for you. The sociopolitical advancement of
podiatric foot and ankle surgery didn’t come easily. A great deal of
energy and resolve on the part of “us old guys” was needed to move this
We have done what we could and now the mantle of leadership falls
squarely on your shoulders. Who among you will pick up the colors and
lead? Who will stand up and say, “Follow me?” If you wait for someone
else to do it, it won’t get done. Your professional identity is enhanced
by the presence of the letters FACFAS after your degree. You have a
debt, an obligation to support the College and help it to grow and
I once had a dream, and it was fulfilled. I have had another dream,
one of parity and collegial co-operation between our College and the
American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Some would ask why — I
would ask, why not? Let us set our own limits and not be restricted by
those who are afraid of change and opposed to professional growth. We
should never be afraid of progress and we should never let others
determine our future.
Thank you for your attention and patience, and God bless.
God bless you, Dr. Jolly. You will be sorely missed.
Dr. Jolly was known for his insightful President’s Perspective columns. Below are links to his articles. His insight and passion for our specialty and College was always apparent.