James H. Dobyns, M.D. - Rochester

James H. Dobyns, M.D. - Rochester

Jim Dobyns was born in Hazard, Ky., on Halloween of 1924. His father, William Harold Dobyns, was a pharmacist who lost his pharmacy in the Great Depression and soon after, lost his life in an accident near his family's farm in Fleming County when Jim was 7 years old. His mother, Miriam Pierce Dobyns, was a music teacher who had traveled widely as a performer before settling down after her husband's death in Hazard, a small mountain coal-mining town in eastern Kentucky where Jimmy matured.

Jim attended the University of Kentucky for one war-shortened year, and quickly found it expedient to volunteer for service in WWII. As a college student, he was sent to a STAR center at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and from there, back to college, first at the University of Maine, then the University of Pittsburgh, and finally Indiana University School of Medicine where he graduated in 1948. He was assigned to Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Denver, where he met the principal prize of his life (wife Betty) and began a 20+ year career in the military. His military life moved the family from place to place every few years, and he and Betty were blessed with sons David while in Denver and Cheyenne, Wyo., Bill while in Columbus, Ohio, and both Rick and Robert (who lived but a few days) while stationed at Burderop Park Air Force Base near Swindon, England.

During this time, a special interest in hand surgery led to his appointment — delayed by his service in England — as the third hand fellow in the New York Orthopedic program, directed by Robert E. Carroll, M.D. Soon after he started the first military hand surgery service at Lackland AFB in San

Antonio, Texas. This new Air Force program and a matching Army program nearby were vitalized by frequent visits of national consultants, and development of teaching programs for residents and practitioners and finally by the exigencies of the Vietnam War.

This exposure to academic medicine was sufficiently attractive that Dr. Dobyns continued in the field during his last 10 years in the military, 20 years at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and 10 years at the University of Texas Medical School in San Antonio. Despite a late start, his CV includes


about 200 articles and textbook chapters covering the central themes of his hand surgery career, which included (1) congenital hand and arm deformities, (2) sports injury to the upper limbs, (3) pain dysfunction of the upper limb, and (4) with his long-time colleague Dr. Ronald Linscheid, all aspects of wrist area trauma, dysfunction and disease. Their pioneering work in wrist disorders led to thousands of articles and textbook chapters on the wrist, many written by Mayo staff and graduates.

Over the years, Dr. Dobyns greatest satisfaction came from stimulating and helping maintain careers of many current hand surgeons. He founded the International Wrist Investigator Workshop, and supported the International Congenital Hand Surgery Group. Dr. Dobyns was also a dedicated member of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and served as its president in 1984. He

was honored as a Pioneer of Hand Surgery by the International Federation of Societies for Surgery of the Hand in 1998.

In retirement, Dr. Dobyns’ time was divided between his family, including his wife, three sons, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren, and active oversight of his favorite profession, being viewed as an information broker by some, a mentor by others, and possibly as a professional curmudgeon by many. In his last days, his wife was constantly by his side, and his three sons and their families were always nearby. He is already missed.

A memorial service will be held at Charter House, 211 Second St. N.W., Rochester on July 28, 2011 at 5:15 p.m.

His family welcomes memorials, and suggests donations to the American Foundation for Surgery of the Hand.

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