AO remembers Jeffrey Welling Mast, MD

09 April 2019

Obituary:  Jeffrey Welling Mast

The AO community is saddened to learn of the passing of Jeffrey Welling Mast, MD. For many in the AO, Jeffrey Welling Mast, MD, was an outstanding mentor. Able to criticize while also encouraging, to inspire and motivate, Jeff was always ready to offer friendly advice and support. 

Born on September 7, 1940, in Easton, New York, into an artistic family, this creative environment found expression in his legendary pre-operative planning and operative skills. 
As director of healthcare efforts in Tibet, Jeff was asked to accompany the wife of a local hotel owner on an medevac mission to seek specialized care in Bern, Switzerland. There he met Maurice E Müller. His interest in Müller's surgical skills grew quickly, ultimately leading him to focus on orthopedic surgery and specialize in fracture fixation, nonunion, bio-regenerative hip salvage, and osteotomy of the hip and knee deformities.

After completing orthopedic training at the University of Southern California Los Angeles County Hospital, he worked and trained in a number of places, eventually spending two years in Bern, where his partnership with Reinhold Ganz blossomed. Together, they developed a safe method of performing periacetabular osteotomy and bioregenerative surgical treatment of hip disease, which created tremendous opportunities to improve patients with congenital hip dysplasia and Perthes disease. Due to these achievements, the two men were recognized as the top two contemporary hip preservation and reconstructive surgeons in the world.

Outstanding accuracy, extraordinary abilities

Jeff’s career focused on developing, learning, and perfecting new techniques. He was close friends with another contemporary orthopedic icon, the esteemed acetabular surgeon Emile Letournel. They travelled extensively, teaching their craft across the world. In 1989, Jeff co-authored the book “Planning and Reduction Techniques in Fracture Surgery”. On publication it sparked fierce criticism for deviating from rigid AO doctrine, but it went on to change orthopedic trauma surgery profoundly. Today, it is an essential part of training for any orthopedic surgeon.

Jeff’s uncanny ability to draw the skeleton, the perfect osteotomy angle of correction, the appropriate implant size and dimension, (usually a blade plate), and then be able to overlay his preoperative plan on the postoperative radiograph to be exactly perfect to his final surgical result, without using templates, was mesmerizing.

“This news comes as a shock and as a profound loss to me personally and to our community as a whole. His contributions to orthopedic knowledge and the educational process through the AO were significant. He will be missed”
Robert McGuire, President of the AO Foundation

The teacher's teacher

The consummate educator, Jeff was frequently the last person to leave the classroom or teaching laboratory, where he had spent time addressing a range of questions, from the easiest to the most complex operative technique. He was willing to travel any distance to help with difficult surgical cases and preoperative planning. These visits were so uniquely Jeff, and an invaluable surgical and social experience for all who were lucky enough to have “The Master” present in their operating rooms.

"This news comes as a shock and as a profound loss to me personally and to our community as a whole. His contributions to orthopedic knowledge and the educational process through the AO were significant. He will be missed," said Robert McGuire, President of the AO Foundation.

Everyone who knew him personally, and the thousands of students he taught throughout his professional life, are indebted to this man for his erudite, visionary teaching, his pursuit in the achievement of the perfect operative result, and his unending courage to take on increasingly more difficult cases. His impact on the advancement of orthopedic trauma and reconstructive surgery cannot be measured. The entire AO community stands on Jeffrey Mast’s shoulders when treating each and every orthopedic trauma and reconstructive surgery patient.

This text is based on reminiscences shared by Jeff's long-time friends: Eric E. Johnson, M.D., Keith A. Mayo, M.D, Joel M. Matta, MD, and Brett Bolhofner, MD.

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