Denis S. Drummond, 84, formerly of Gladwyne, a noted pediatric spine surgeon and retired chief of orthopedics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, died Tuesday, June 18, of heart failure in Toronto, where he had moved in 2015 to be near family.
Dr. Drummond was born in Montreal to Paul and Elizabeth Drummond. In 1951, he graduated from Westmount High School. While there, he excelled in academics and sports.
“Tennis and golf became his lifelong games, and he gave everything he had when he competed in those pursuits,” said his son Jim. “He got interested in medicine after a skiing accident that left him with a broken leg.”
Dr. Drummond earned a bachelor’s degree in 1957 from McGill University in Montreal and a medical degree from the McGill University Medical School in 1962. He completed advanced training in orthopedic surgery at the University of Toronto in 1968. While at McGill, he met Joan Kimber. They married in 1959.
Dr. Drummond was an assistant professor at McGill University Medical School and an attending surgeon at Shriners Hospital for Children, Montreal, from 1970 to 1977.
He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health from 1978 to 1985. During that period, he treated patients at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics.
In 1985, he came to CHOP, where he was chief of orthopedics until he stepped down from the post in 1996. He taught at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine from 1985 until retiring in 2014.
Dr. Drummond specialized in treating children with scoliosis, spina bifida, and cerebral palsy, and those who had undergone limb amputations. He was known for performing spinal fusions, and he helped formulate a team approach to treating children that included urology, physical therapy, and social-work consults.
In 2012, he was awarded the Scoliosis Research Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award for 30 years of distinguished service to the society and significant contributions to spinal-deformity care.
He held six patents for surgical devices used to operate on spines, including a method and apparatus for engaging a hook assembly to a spinal column to straighten it.
He volunteered with international charities such as CARE in Tunisia in 1972 and Project HOPE in 1988 and 1989. “I think he felt an ethical obligation to offer his expertise to children in poorer countries,” his son said.
On Dec. 7, 1988, when an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 hit the northern region of Armenia, then part of the Soviet Union, the call went out for international help to treat injured children. Over the next year, many were flown to CHOP and treated by Dr. Drummond and his team.
In a 1989 case chronicled by the Philadelphia Daily News, Dr. Drummond saved the leg of a 15-year-old Armenian girl named Anik Miloian, who had been trapped in the collapse of a schoolhouse for days. Although she sustained a severe crush injury of the leg, with the doctor’s help, Miloian went on to walk again.
Dr. Drummond was much beloved by his young patients and their families. He was also admired by CHOP staff and colleagues for training and mentoring many orthopedic surgeons and for his personable, down-to-earth bedside manner. He never talked down to children, his son said.
After he retired, an entire issue of the University of Pennsylvania Orthopedic Journal was devoted to Dr. Drummond.
“Despite a long list of achievements, he remains humble, personable, and approachable,” wrote David Spiegel, his friend and protégé, in journal Volume 19. “His positive attitude permeates all who surround him. He is always available and willing to help.”
Spiegel wrote that Dr. Drummond stood out as a prime example of a professional who lived a balanced life.
“[He is] a dedicated husband, an exemplary father and grandparent, a fantastic surgeon, an extremely loved human, an extraordinary researcher, and a true scientist,” Spiegel wrote.
In addition to his wife, Joan, and son Jim, he is survived by sons Keith, Bruce, and Terry, and 10 grandchildren.