John J. Tansey

Orthopedic Surgeon Headed The Amputee And Prosthetic Clinic At Kernan Hospital

August 27, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

John Jerome "Jack" Tansey, a well-known Baltimore orthopedic surgeon who was also an accomplished horseman and gardener, died Monday of lung cancer at the Charlestown retirement community. He was 89.

Dr. Tansey, the son of a dentist and a homemaker, was born and raised in East Hampton, Mass., and graduated in 1939 from the Williston Northampton School in his hometown.

After earning a bachelor's degree in 1943 from Brown University in Providence, R.I., he graduated in 1945 from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

In 1942, he enlisted in the Naval Reserve, and after graduating from Maryland, served as a medical officer from 1945 to 1948.

"While traveling by train to California prior to his departure for the Pacific, he met a fellow passenger, Shirley Llewellyn, whom he married two weeks later," said his son, John L. Tansey of Cedarcroft.

He served an internship at the U.S. Naval Hospital at Great Lakes, Ill., and later was assigned to the Fleet Marine Police in Hawaii.

After completing his naval service, Dr. Tansey returned to Baltimore and completed training in orthopedic surgery at St. Agnes Hospital, James Lawrence Kernan Hospital and the old Baltimore City Hospital, now Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

In 1955, he was certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery.

"In the early 1950s when Jack was starting out, you could count the number of orthopedic surgeons in Baltimore on one hand and foot," said William Neill of Ruxton, whose career as director of physical therapy at Kernan Hospital coincided with Dr. Tansey's arrival at the West Baltimore hospital.

"He was extremely brilliant and had a wonderful mind, and for years, we worked hand and glove together," said Mr. Neill, who retired in 2007.

"When Jack was beginning, he saw lots of polio cases, crippled children and a few broken hips, which in those days was an invitation to the graveyard," Mr. Neill said.

"People in those days thought that being an orthopedic surgeon was terribly boring. The field then was not what it is today," he said.

For years, Dr. Tansey headed the amputee and prosthetic clinic at Kernan; in addition to his work at the hospital, he maintained a private practice.

He also was clinical associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and was chief of orthopedics at St. Agnes Hospital from 1960 to 1979.

In the late 1960s, he established what is now known as Orthopedic Associates of Central Maryland in the 3300 block of Wilkens Ave., and was joined by fellow orthopedic surgeons and partners Dr. Michael A. Ellis and Dr. Kenneth Spence.

"Jack had a brilliant capacity for original thought that led to exuberant skills especially in dealing with complex polio problems during the last century," Dr. Ellis recalled yesterday.

"He was a superior teacher to generations of young orthopedic surgeons," he said. "He was unaffected by the experiences of yesterday, which allowed him to move forward today and be innovative."

Dr. Spence was asked in 1969 to join the practice by Dr. Tansey.

"He was a true intellectual and could look at obvious problems and come up with other possibilities. He was capable of making people think," Dr. Spence said. "He was a good surgeon and technician and just a fine person who was fair, honest and moral."

Dr. Tansey willingly lent his expertise and experience to the orthopedic program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine for four years during a period of transition.

"Jack taught the residents in orthopedics at Maryland. He kept the orthopedic program alive and together during a particularly critical period," said Dr. Spence, who retired in 1999.

Dr. Tansey had an excellent rapport with his patients.

"He was just as kind as he could be with his patients. There was none of that rush stuff that we have today," Mr. Neill said.

While Dr. Tansey retired from active practice of orthopedic surgery in 1987, he continued to work as a consultant to several agencies of the federal government.

In the late 1980s, he volunteered with Health Volunteers Overseas and was assigned to a refugee hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Dr. Tansey's home for many years was Foxhall Farm, a 10-acre farm near Catonsville.

In addition to gardening and keeping horses, Dr. Tansey enjoyed riding with the Howard County Hunt Club and had served on its board.

Dr. Tansey had been a resident of the Catonsville retirement community since 2007.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in Our Lady of the Angels Chapel, 711 Maiden Choice Lane.

In addition to his wife of 63 years and his son, Dr. Tansey is survived by a daughter, Sheila M. Hughes of Oakland.

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