Orthopedic Surgeon Richard Rothman Dies

richard rothman-dies
Richard Rothman was a distinguished orthopedic surgeon. | Screenshot via JeffersonCloseUp/Youtube

Richard Rothman, the founder of the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, died Oct. 21 after surgery for cancer that had spread to his brain. He was 81.

“Our hearts are heavy at the passing of our beloved leader, Dick Rothman,” Alexander R. Vaccaro, president of the institute, said in a statement. “He was a titan of orthopaedic medicine, a man who was solely dedicated to his patients from day one. He was a role model and a dear friend and he will be missed.”

Rothman’s eponymously named institute was founded on the back of a donation from the late Walter H. Annenberg, former owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. Rothman performed two hip replacement surgeries on Annenberg, and the media titan rewarded the young doctor.

The institute now has offices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. It is affiliated with Jefferson Health, Main Line Health, Geisinger, Northwell Health and Capital Health and its spine team performs more than 3,000 surgical procedures each year.

Rothman physicians have worked with various local sports teams, including the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, 76ers, Villanova University, Saint Joseph’s University and more than 40 local high schools and colleges.

A Cheltenham native, Rothman graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in history and, later, a medical degree. He then earned his doctorate degree in anatomy at Thomas Jefferson before opening the institute.

He performed more than 50,000 total hip and total knee replacements in his career.

“Jefferson would not be what it is today without his inspired leadership,” Jefferson Health CEO Stephen Klasko told the Inquirer. “In anyone’s lifetime, if you are fortunate, you might meet one or two people larger than life. Dr. Rothman will be remembered for his amazing accomplishments, his surgical skill, his entrepreneurial spirit, and his inspirational mentorship. But beyond all those aspects of his life, there are thousands of doctors and patients whose lives have been positively altered because of Dr. Rothman’s presence.”

Rothman retired from surgical practice after performing his last knee replacement May 16. He insisted he was in good health, but he did have kidney issues and was expected to receive a transplant in January.

He learned about a year ago that he had Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare form of skin cancer. The tumor was removed from his armpit and his treatment went well, but the cancer recently returned to two spots in his brain.

After surgery he appeared well at first, but then he started to suffer from brain bleeding. He died at the Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience in Center City.

A banner on the Institute’s website bears a tribute to Rothman: “Our hearts are heavy as we mourn our founder. We remember him as a pioneering surgeon, an incredible leader, but most importantly, a great man. He will be missed by many.”

Rothman is survived by his wife Marsha, four children and five grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be sent to the Rothman Orthopaedic Foundation. l

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