Robert G. Volz, MD
Emeritus Professor, the University of Arizona Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
Honorary Lifetime Surgical Director, the University of Arizona Arthritis Center
Emeritus Member, the University of Arizona Arthritis Center Advisory Board
An innovator, a visionary and a leader, Robert G. Volz, MD, has made an indelible mark on the world of modern medicine.
Dr. Volz completed his bachelor's degree at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri in 1954 and went on to graduate from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in 1957. He then completed his orthopaedic specialty training at the University of Kansas Medical Center. After finishing his training in Kansas, Dr. Volz went on to practice for several years in Denver, Colorado, where he served as the head of the orthopaedic service at Denver Children’s Hospital. In 1973, he was recruited to build a total joint surgery program – part of the newly-founded orthopaedic program – at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center.
From the moment Dr. Volz stepped onto the UA campus, he began to create and to dream. His vision and his dream showed how entities could come together to achieve greatness with true leadership and direction. It was a very special day in July, 1973, that Dr. Volz began to share his dream with his soon-to-be lifelong friend, Eric P. Gall, MD. The two young physicians met in a parking lot at University Medical Center (now Banner - University Medical Center Tucson) on that warm day – each on their first day at the UA. Dr. Volz was a new attending orthopaedic surgeon and Dr. Gall a new rheumatologist. The connection between the two was immediate and the fulfillment of a dream to serve patients with cutting-edge care in orthopaedics and rheumatology began.
Dr. Volz combined his love for the practice of medicine, teaching and research and formulated a collaborative model that helped form the foundation for the many residents and fellows who trained under him. With the collaboration of Drs. Volz and Gall, orthopaedic residents and rheumatology fellows began to train together. Orthopaedic total joint surgery and rheumatology offered services to patients in the same clinic – a novel idea never before encountered.
A co-founder of the University of Arizona Arthritis Center (UAAC) and founder of the UA Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Dr. Volz was a true pioneer in the field of orthopaedic surgery. He served as chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the UA College of Medicine from 1985-1992. There, he designed some of the first artificial joints in the United States, including the first artificial wrist and created innovative designs for the elbow and knee.
His total wrist prosthesis was one of only two such devices in the world at the time and was recognized by the American Hospital Association as one of the ten major medical advances in the United States. The first prosthesis fully designed in the United States, it was implanted in August, 1974, and its success paved the way for use in medical centers throughout the world.
In 1976, Dr. Volz followed with the development of a new total elbow prosthesis. Total elbow prostheses had been shown to wear improperly; Dr. Volz’ creation more closely simulated the normal biomechanics of the elbow, allowing for more natural range of motion. He successfully implanted his first new elbow prosthesis in October, 1976. A new knee that was widely used in the United States and abroad was to follow the elbow. The advances by Dr. Volz continued to make headlines in the world of medicine.
He was chief of the Section of Orthopaedic Surgery and a professor of surgery until his retirement in 1992. Now an honored professor emeritus at the UA, Dr. Volz has been recognized as a Who’s Who in the World for his contributions to the field of medicine and was on the “Best Doctors in America” list. He also was co-founder of the Western Trauma Association, one of only two nationally recognized research trauma societies in the United States, and is the Lifetime Surgical Director of the UAAC.
Following his retirement, he and his wife, Ann, traveled to Hong Kong, Sweden, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Vietnam, Bhutan, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and South Africa to volunteer their time, providing much-needed medical care, outreach and education.
Long known as one of the scientific leaders in the orthopaedic world, Dr. Volz has been recognized by the UA as one of its top innovators of the past 100 years. Determination, innovation, achievement and leadership have long been the cornerstones by which Dr. Volz has bettered the lives of thousands. Through treatment of patients, education of young aspiring physicians and peers, leadership in the community and love for his profession, Dr. Volz’ impact is everlasting.