In Memoriam: Dr. Hans K. Uhthoff

Posted on Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Photo of white roses

The Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa sadly acknowledges the passing of Dr. Hans K. Uhthoff, emeritus professor of surgery in the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery. Dr. Uhthoff was a highly respected surgeon, as well as a teacher and mentor to countless learners and colleagues. Generous and knowledgeable, he influenced many throughout his life and career.

Dr. Uhthoff earned his MD at the University of Marburg in 1951 in Germany. He arrived in Ottawa in 1973, at which time he was appointed an associate professor at uOttawa; he became a full professor in 1979, and was named emeritus professor in 1995.

Dr. Uhthoff’s leadership and research brought renown to Ottawa in the field of orthopaedics. He established the Bone and Joint Research Laboratory at The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre; he was appointed chair of the Department of Surgery in 1991, and again in 2003­­­­­. In 1983, he became president of the Canadian Orthopaedic Association.

The Department of Surgery’s Division of Orthopedic Surgery named their research day in his honour. Hans K. Uhthoff Research Day, in which participating faculty and learners showcase their innovative work, pays tribute to the surgeon’s eminent career and its key component, translational musculoskeletal research.

Dr. Uhthoff insisted on curiosity-driven research with direct application to treating patients with bone and joint diseases. His innovative contributions on supraspinatus tendon repair and fracture healing are most cited, says Dr. Guy Trudel, current director of the Bone and Joint Research Laboratory.

“Hans was passionate in his quest for new knowledge through experimental medicine,” says Dr. Trudel, a professor of medicine, surgery and biochemistry at the Faculty of Medicine. “He upheld the highest standards of integrity for clinical and research pursuits, embracing the mottos of loyalty and honesty. He was uncompromising in the efforts required to succeed but understanding should the outcome not meet the expected results.”

Colleagues from the Division Orthopaedic Surgery also shared words of tribute for Dr. Uhthoff, praising him as a skilled and passionate surgeon and administrator.

“He was a lifelong leader in orthopedics, continuing to mentor well after retirement from clinical practice,” says division head Dr. Steven Papp. “He was a great mentor to us all.”

Orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Robert Feibel says Dr. Uhthoff contributed a great deal of energy to furthering the progress of orthopaedic surgery in Ottawa, within Canada and internationally.

“He entertained shoulder rotator cuff research fellows from around the world, most notably Japan,” shares Dr. Feibel. “He encouraged his colleagues, residents and students to be precise in their clinical skills, surgery and research endeavors.

“He continued to be involved in research, his true passion, until shortly before his passing.”

Dr. Uhthoff lived a life of high standards for himself, and through his teaching, mentorship and friendship, brought it out in others.

He created the Hans K. Uhthoff, MD FRCSC Graduate Fellowship endowment fund, through which his legacy will endure as PhD and masters students at the University of Ottawa pursue research in orthopaedics. Donations can be made here in support of the fund.

At a reception in Dr. Uhthoff’s honour in 2005 (see more at right), retired pediatric orthopaedic surgeon Dr. James Wiley commended the three cardinal rules underlying Dr. Uhthoff’s career—those of honesty, loyalty and integrity.

“He has shared his brilliance, his time, his resources, even his own funds with all of us,” said Dr. Wiley in his tribute.

“His aim was to make you and me better doctors.”

We wish to extend our deepest sympathies to the Uhthoff family as well as to his friends and colleagues. 

View the obituary.

A group of clinicians and researchers pose on the front steps of a building

Dr. Uhthoff (front row, third from right), poses with participants of the 2016 Hans K. Uhthoff Research Day on the front steps of the Faculty of Medicine’s Roger Guindon Hall. Photo credit : Faculty of Medicine Division of Orthopaedic Surgery


A group of clinicians and researchers pose as a group

Dr. Uhthoff (bottom left), posing with the Bone and Joint Research Laboratory team, including current director Dr. Guy Trudel (back row centre). Photo credit : Bone and Joint Research Laboratory


Dr. Hans Uhthoff

Dr. Hans K. Uhthoff. Photo credit : Bone and Joint Research Laboratory

The following appeared in the Faculty’s MedScène newsletter in November 2005:

A tribute to Dr. Hans K. Uhthoff: Creation of the Hans K. Uhthoff Graduate Fellowship

On October 22, 2005, on the occasion of Dr. Hans Uhthoff’s 80th birthday, The Ottawa Hospital’s Division of Orthopaedic Surgery hosted a reception at the Ottawa Congress Centre. More than 100 guests attended the event and a dozen of Dr. Uhthoff’s former residents, students, confreres and friends spoke. They expressed their appreciation for the training they each received and for the many accolades that Dr. Uhthoff has brought to the University of Ottawa, through his fine reputation.

Prior to the event, as a mark of their gratitude and friendship, a number of former residents and University of Ottawa alumni made donations towards the establishment of the Hans K. Uhthoff Graduate Fellowship. (Current-day note: In just the past five years, the fund has helped 20 students, disbursing over $250,000 in scholarships.)

Dr. James Wiley, retired pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at CHEO, was among those who gave tribute to Dr. Uhthoff. In his address, he expressed his admiration for the many contributions Dr. Uhthoff made to the medical community as well as to society, as a scholar, a surgeon, a mentor – and as a person. “He has shared his brilliance, his time, his resources, even his own funds with all of us. His aim was to make you and me better doctors.” Dr. Wiley concluded his speech by reminding all present of the three cardinal rules underlying Dr. Uhthoff’s career: honesty, loyalty, integrity – principles that must be carried on, and fiercely guarded.

Three people pose at a party

Dr. Hans Uhthoff, centre, at a reception in his honour in 2005. He is accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Annegret Uhthoff, and Mrs. Marion Robichon, wife of the late Dr. Jacques Robichon, the first head of the Faculty’s Division of Orthopaedic Surgery. Photo credit : University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine


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