July 12, 2016

VUMC mourns loss of Pediatric Orthopaedics pioneer Neil Green

Neil Green Retirement Celebration Vanderbilt Children's Hospital Theater Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt Vanderbilt University Medical Center photo: Anne Rayner; VU
Neil Green photo: Anne Rayner

Neil E. Green, M.D., professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, Emeritus, and former director and chief of the Division of Pediatric Orthopaedics at Vanderbilt, died Saturday, July 9. He was 75.

“Dr. Green’s accomplishments in the field of orthopaedics were prolific and countless lives have been and will be impacted by his work,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., President and CEO of VUMC, and Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “During nearly four decades of service to Vanderbilt, Neil expertly cared for generations of young patients, many suffering from devastating injuries or highly complex congenital conditions, advancing surgical techniques and treatments in the process while also serving as an exemplar for students, residents and fellows. He was beloved by his patients and colleagues. On behalf of Vanderbilt, I want to express our condolences to Lesley and his family,” he said.

Dr. Green’s career at Vanderbilt spanned 38 years and began in 1976 with his appointment as assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation. He served as vice chair of the department for 11 years, and was director of Pediatric Orthopaedics from 1981 until 2006, when he passed the post on to Gregory Mencio, M.D., director of Pediatric Orthopaedics at Children’s Hospital and vice chair of the Department of Orthopaedics.

“Neil Green was the consummate academic orthopaedic surgeon. He was a skilled clinician and surgeon, but his true passion was resident education. He has rightfully earned the gratitude of so many patients, and his contributions to pediatric orthopaedics will continue to improve the care of children for many years,” Mencio said. “On a personal note, he has been a terrific partner, mentor and friend these past 24 years. He has had a profound impact at Vanderbilt that extends beyond the Department of Orthopaedics. His legacy lives on through the many residents and fellows he has trained who share his professional and philosophical values and the respect of his peers and associates. We all miss him.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, Dr. Green went on to earn a medical degree from Albany Medical College. He did his internship and residencies in general and orthopaedic surgeries at Duke University Medical Center.

“Neil was a great friend and fantastic leader, and I am truly fortunate and honored to have worked with him over the years. His contributions to the field of orthopaedics, Children’s Hospital and Vanderbilt will have a lasting impact on future generations of orthopaedic physicians and surgeons,” said John W. Brock III, M.D., surgeon-in-chief, senior vice president of Pediatric Surgical Services and Monroe Carell Jr. Professor. “He left a lasting impression on those he met and touched the lives of many people – family, friends, colleagues, patients and families, residents and students. I am lucky to have been one of those people. We will miss him.”

Through his research and work, Dr. Green left an indelible mark on orthopaedics and treatments for children. He helped change the way orthopaedic surgeons cared for pediatric patients with femur and forearm fractures. In addition, his research on bracing for children with scoliosis (an abnormal curving of the spine) helped introduce part time bracing as an effective treatment for the condition.

“Neil’s surgical acumen impacted tens of thousands of young lives. He used his immense skills and warm, outgoing demeanor to help many children and their parents through often difficult circumstances related to injury or illness. I know many of them developed a deep affection for him, as did his colleagues. We will continue to appreciate his many contributions to Vanderbilt as we mourn his passing,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer for VUMC.

 While Dr. Green was beloved by decades of patients, residents and fellows, he was also an international leader in his specialty. He authored and co-authored more than 100 journal articles and book chapters, and gave more than 200 presentations and guest lectures in the United States and across the world. He was also a visiting professor at various institutions, including serving as a visiting professor in residence in Paris.

 He also served as president of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America, the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, the Southern Orthopaedic Association, the Tennessee Orthopaedics Society and the Nashville Orthopaedic Society, among others.

“It is with extreme sorrow that we mourn the loss of Dr. Green, a mere 17 months after he became emeritus faculty. The fourth annual Neil E. Green lectureship was just held June 24 to honor his 38 years of service to Children’s Orthopaedics at Vanderbilt,” said Herbert S. Schwartz, M.D., chair of the Vanderbilt Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Dan Spengler M.D. Professor of Orthopaedics. “Amongst so many accolades, it is resident education that stands out in my memories. Neil transformed the culture of our orthopaedic residency and surgical education through his example and vision. On behalf of the Department, we grieve with Lesley, Bruce, Lisa and their families.”

After stepping down as director of Pediatric Orthopaedics in 2006, Dr. Green continued to serve as professor of Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation and associate professor of Pediatrics. Upon his retirement, he was honored by friends and colleagues at a reception in January 2015. At that time he reflected on his years at Vanderbilt: “I have seen a marked transformation in Children’s Hospital since I began my career at Vanderbilt,” Dr.Green said. “In the beginning there was a Children’s Hospital in name, which was part of the main hospital. With the help of Drs. Ian Burr and Jim O’Neill we were able to create what is one of the best children’s hospitals in the country.”

The Neil E. Green Lectureship at Vanderbilt recognizes Dr. Green’s many contributions as a leader and role model in advancing the missions of education, research and advocacy of the orthopaedic profession and the impact he has had on the next generation of orthopaedic surgeons with whom he has interacted and influenced.

“Dr. Green’s leadership style was by example and he inspired the best in all who worked with him,” said Bobbi Nealey, MSN, R.N., Manager, PCC, Pediatric Urology and Pediatric Orthopaedics. “He loved his profession — the relationships with the children and their families. He had that special gift of relating to children at their level of understanding and always made the child a part of the decision making process. He addressed each child by his beloved “hot dog” or “turkey” and every child thought they were the only one who had the special nickname.

We are going to miss this wonderful man who many of us felt was immortal, bigger than life. I am so very blessed to have spent over 30 years with his inspiration,” she said.

Dr. Green is survived by his wife of 54 years, Lesley Nield Green, and children, Bruce Green (Lynn) of Nashville, Tennessee, and Lisa Green Brock (Charlie) of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, and four grandchildren: Lesley Brock, Taylor Brock, Laura Brock and Grant Green.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Division of Pediatric Orthopaedics, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, 2200 Children’s Way, Nashville, Tennessee, 37232 or the charity of your choice.

Funeral Services will be held for family and friends at Beth Yam Synagogue, 4501 Meeting Street on Hilton Head Island on Wednesday, July 13, at 1 p.m., followed by a Celebration of Life at the Wexford Plantation Clubhouse.