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Dr. S. Jayakumar

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Dr. S. Jayakumar Obituary
Dr. S. Jayakumar

S. Jayakumar, an Indian American pediatric orthopaedic surgeon who pioneered surgical advances in the treatment of clubfoot, scoliosis and congenital dislocation of the hip, died on March 14, 2013 in Coimbatore, India. The cause was complications of a heart condition, precipitated by a severe asthma attack.

An early proponent of universal childhood polio vaccination, Dr. Jayakumar, working with Alda Fowler and others, established a model for the disease's eradication by helping create a free oral polio vaccination program in 1965 in Coimbatore, India, his hometown, a type of approach later followed by organizations such as the Rotary Club and eventually the Gates Foundation. During his career, he also developed surgical instrumentation, like his eponymous "J Hook," that went on to be routinely used by surgeons.

Shanmuga Sundaram Jayakumar was born in Coimbatore, in what was then the Madras Presidency of British India on April 4, 1936, the son of D. Shanmuga Sundaram, a lawyer, and later the city's Public Prosecutor, equivalent to District Attorney, and his wife, Angammal. After primary education at St. Michael's School in Coimbatore, he attended Madras Medical College, graduating in 1959, and then continued there until 1965 with specialist training in orthopaedics. Upon receiving his medical degree, Dr. Jayakumar initially worked for the Indian Railways as a railway doctor. The first orthopaedic surgeon in Coimbatore, he established a private practice there in 1965.

An opportunity for additional training brought Dr. Jayakumar to the United States in 1973, with an orthopaedic residency at Howard University, under the famed African-American surgeon, Dr. Charles Epps. While there, he treated Vietnam-era veterans in rotations through Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. In 1974, Dr. G. Dean MacEwen, the then medical director of the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, invited Dr. Jayakumar to a fellowship in pediatric orthopaedics. He later became a staff orthopaedic surgeon at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children until his retirement in 2011. His major interests in orthopaedics included the spine, clubfoot, tarsal coalition, spina bifida and arthrogryposis multiplex congenita. He was renowned for his dedication to the compassionate care of children, endearing himself to colleagues, patients and their parents who fondly referred to him as "Dr. Jay."

In Delaware, he was a member of the American College of Surgeons - Delaware Chapter, Medical Society of Delaware, Delaware Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Academy of Pediatrics - Delaware Chapter. Nationally and internationally, he was a member of scores of professional societies including: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American College of Surgeons, Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America, Scoliosis Research Society, Societe Internationale de Chirurgie Orthopedique et de Traumatologie and the Eastern Orthopaedic Association. When he became a member of the American Orthopaedic Association, he was one of only a handful of members of Indian origin. He lectured on pediatric orthopaedics throughout the years with these organizations and was invited to speak in many countries including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Italy, Poland and South Korea.

Dr. Jayakumar's global impact extended to teaching young surgeons through an International Fellows program at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children that trained future medical leaders in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Mongolia, Poland, South Korea and Thailand. In addition, he served as a Consultant Reviewer for The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery from 1985 to 1987, later acting as an Associate Editor from 1987 to 1997 and then as a Deputy Editor from 1997 until 2003. Dr. Jayakumar authored ninety-one articles published in peer-reviewed journals, nine medical book chapters and nine book reviews. In 1990, he co-authored the influential book, "Imaging Strategies in Pediatric Orthopaedics."

Among his appointments, Dr. Jayakumar served as a Clinical Professor of Orthopaedics with Thomas Jefferson University. In addition, he was an Honorary Civil Surgeon at the Coimbatore Government Hospital, helping found its orthopaedic department in 1965 and creating an artificial limb program with assistance from the US government. He was also an Honorary Visiting Professor with Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University.

Dr. Jayakumar's community service extended to work on two continents. He regularly returned to his native India to visit family and supervise the care of long-standing patients. In addition to his efforts implementing free polio vaccinations, he was instrumental in the creation of the Coimbatore Orthopedic Centre, a physical therapy institute founded under the auspices of the Society for the Aid of Handicapped Children. In the United States, Dr. Jayakumar was involved with various charitable organizations and provided orthopaedic care for handicapped children at Camp Manito in Wilmington, Delaware.

His interests beyond medicine included travel, art, astronomy, gardening, Carnatic music and literature - from Arthur Conan Doyle to Tagore and Virginia Woolf. Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" was a current favorite. He was active in the Indian community in Delaware, helping found a Hindu temple now serving thousands in Hockessin, Delaware.

Dr. Jayakumar was treating patients until the very end. On a recent family excursion to the foothills of the Western Ghats of South India, his wife's uncle fell into a ditch, lacerating a newly operated knee. Without medical supplies, Dr. Jayakumar successfully treated the wound. His uncle-in-law would have the distinction of being Dr. Jayakumar's final patient.

Dr. Jayakumar was predeceased by his parents and a sister, Dr. Kausalya Muragaiyan, a prominent OB/GYN in Pollachi, India. He is survived by his wife Mrinalini Jayakumar; his daughter, Dr. Anitha Patel (and her husband, Dr. Prakash Patel); a son, Shan Jayakumar (JJ); and grandchildren, Anisa Patel and Dhruv Patel.

A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held in Wilmington, Delaware at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to any of Dr. Jayakumar's favorite charities including: World Wildlife Fund, Doctors Without Borders or the Nature Conservancy.

Published in The News Journal from Mar. 29 to Apr. 3, 2013
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