Orthopaedic Leader Honored

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By Trainees, Patients and Friends

Alumnus Michael F. Schafer, ’72 MD, served with distinction as the chair and Edwin Warner Ryerson Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery for more than 30 years. Today, he continues to provide important leadership to the department, as well as world-class care to his patients.

The Michael F. Schafer, MD, Fund was created to honor Schafer and recognize his innumerable contributions to the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Northwestern. This year, thanks to the generosity and participation of current and former trainees, patients and friends, the Schafer Fund surpassed its endowment goal of $500,000 — one year ahead of schedule. Now the Schafer Fund will advance the research and training missions of the department in perpetuity.

“It was a privilege and an honor to serve as chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery,” said Schafer. “I was fortunate to have a faculty that was dedicated to the educational mission of our residents. The success of the fundraising for this endowment ensures that our current and future residents will have the resources to enhance their educational pursuits.”

When describing their love of Northwestern and strong connection to the department, supporters often cite their experiences as trainees under the able guidance and mentoring of Schafer.

One is Patrick J. Sweeney, ’88 MD, ’93 GME, whose connection to Schafer extends even beyond their relationship as trainee and trainer. While a resident himself, Schafer trained under Patrick Sweeney’s father, Howard J. Sweeney, ’49, ’51 MD, associate professor emeritus of Orthopaedic Surgery. Howard Sweeney served as Northwestern’s team surgeon for 38 years and is included in the Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame.

“Dr. Schafer and the entire staff and faculty of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Northwestern have been pivotal figures in my life. I am forever grateful for the privilege of training under them,” said Patrick Sweeney.

“Dr. Schafer is a warm-hearted and gifted surgeon, physician and leader, to whom I credit much of my success and will forever be indebted. The department continues to be a premier one, with Terrance Peabody carrying on the traditions established by Dr. Schafer. It is an honor to be able to make a gift to recognize their tireless work.”

A Life in Service to Northwestern

Schafer has trained more than 300 orthopaedic surgery residents and fellows during his tenure and provided expert, compassionate care to countless patients.

At the age of 10, Schafer was infected with the life-threatening bulbar form of polio. His experiences while in the hospital led him to pursue a career in orthopaedics as many of his caregivers were surgeons in this field. He distinguished himself early in his career, winning the intern of the year award at Wesley Hospital and the resident of the year award during his first year of training.

Schafer continues to serve with distinction as a professor of Orthopaedic Surgery. He recently received the national William W. Tipton Jr., MD, Leadership Award from the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation.

Schafer (right) with one of his own mentors, Howard J. Sweeney (left), on Thesis Day at the medical school in 1981.