By Kylie Jue
On Sept. 14, Eugene Bleck, founder of the School of Medicine’s pediatric orthopedics department, died of respiratory failure at the Mills-Peninsula Hospital in San Mateo. He was 91.
Bleck was a father figure in the field of orthopedic treatment and established some of the first standards of care for pediatric orthopedics at Stanford, Stanford Medicine News reported this week.
He published his first book, “An Atlas of Plaster Cast Techniques,” as a resident in orthopedic surgery at Duke University Medical Center, and his book “The Orthopaedic Treatment of Cerebral Palsy” is considered one of the top references in the field. He also authored four other books and 85 journal publications.
After his residency at Duke, Bleck moved to San Mateo with his wife in 1955 and established his own private practice that centered on care for children with cerebral palsy. In 1972, he came to Stanford as an associate professor of orthopedic surgery and went on to become the chief of the Orthopedics Division at Stanford Hospital, now Stanford Health Care, from 1982 to 1988.
During his time at Stanford, Bleck mentored several residents and constantly broke tradition through his work. He treated his residents as postdoctoral students by giving them significant work rather than grunt work, and he also established many of the department’s “firsts,” according to Stanford Medicine News.
Bleck admitted Stanford’s first female resident in orthopedic surgery and ended the reuse of surgical tourniquets in order to prevent infection in patients. He also performed Stanford’s first anterior scoliosis surgery and brought arthroscopy to the University.
Outside Stanford, Bleck was also a founder and past president of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America and was a member of the American Orthopedic Association and the American Academy for Celebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine.
Bleck was also active with the U.S. Navy in several different forms. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve as a medical corpsman and volunteered for active duty as a U.S. Navy medical officer during the Korean War.
Upon returning to the U.S., he worked at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Oakland, California, and treated patients at the naval amputation center.
Blake is survived by two sons and two daughters as well as three brothers, a sister and seven grandchildren. His memorial was held on Sept. 22.