Department of Surgery Loses a Legend

Department of Surgery Loses a Legend

Dr. Harold Kleinert, an internationally renowned hand surgeon and founder of the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center, died Sept. 28, 2013, at age 91.

Kleinert was a pioneer in his field who shared his knowledge with hundreds of surgeons and University of Louisville medical students. He was a Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of Louisville until his retirement from medical practice in 2008. He was honored with the title of Clinical Professor of Surgery Emeritus in 2012.

Kleinert started a hand surgery clinic in Louisville in 1953. Joined by Dr. Joseph E. Kutz in 1964, they formed the organization now known as the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center. Kleinert and Kutz began their hand-care center in a seventh-floor office in downtown Louisville's Heyburn Building and later built the clinic into a three-floor, high-tech medical center at the Jewish Hospital medical campus. Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center is one of the largest hand care programs in the world providing comprehensive upper extremity care.

Mayor Greg Fischer said Kleinert was known internationally for his breakthrough work in the science and care of hands. He also practiced with his heart. Humanity will benefit for decades to come because of his innovations in medicine.

Kleinert helped establish the Christine M. Kleinert Fellowship in Hand Surgery in 1960 for those residents desiring postgraduate training and, to date, more than 1,200 surgeons from 51 countries have trained as fellows in the program.

He grew up on a ranch near Sunburst, Montana, only 10 miles from the Canadian border. He graduated from Temple University Medical School in 1946 and received its Distinguished Alumni Scientific Achievement Award in surgery in 1987.

In 1973, Kleinert was appointed a national consultant in hand surgery to the surgeon general of the Air Force. In 1977 he performed the first known successful bilateral arm replant, the reattachment of a tin miner's two severed arms. He previously was president of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and received the Scientific Achievement Award from the American Medical Association in 1980. Throughout his career, he wrote more than 200 scientific publications.

Dr. Kleinert was a conceptual, as well as a technical, wizard, said former Chair of the Department of Surgery Dr. Hiram C. Polk, Jr., Ben A. Reid, Sr. Professor of Surgery, Emeritus. He approached me about having the Department become a home for his envisaged microsurgery center; I pointed out then (about 1974) that we were having trouble with macrosurgery, much less micro. With his personal leadership and dollar support, we were able to bring (Dr.) Bob Acland here and microsurgery became a part of all the twelve disciplines then within the Department and then the world.