Letter to the Editor: Bill Lambert, A Remembrance

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I’m saddened to learn of Bill Lambert’s passing and want to publicly express my sympathies to Bill’s family. As a doctor I feel privileged to have been part of Bill’s medical community. He was not only a patient’s doctor par excellence, but a doctor’s doctor, too.

Most people in our community who had the privilege of seeing Bill knew what a talented and spirited surgeon he was. Bill knew that if surgery was called for, it was only the start of treatment, and his kind but relentless pushing of patients through the work of rehabilitation was legendary. In this he had the sentimentality of a Marine drill sergeant, but at the core of Bill’s push was his heart of gold. He loved his patients and he knew how deeply they needed to reach in themselves to get better.

I knew Bill chiefly as a consultant and in this he was without peer. After Bill’s car accident he found he couldn’t tolerate the long hours in the operating room, his professional home. Rather than quit medicine, which I think was a consideration, Bill reinvented himself and became a non-operating orthopedist. He started the process with some reluctance – Bill was rightfully proud of his outstanding surgical skills, and what does a surgeon offer when he can’t operate? The answer was lots. Rather than being a minor epilogue to his surgical career, his career as a non-operating consultant was a second wind for him and he found himself having “more fun than ever.” His practice took off.

I cherished his services. He offered the remarkable balance of operative and non-operative solutions to orthopedic problems that can only come from someone who knew all about surgery but had no vested interest in seeing it done. If a patient could get better with physical therapy or a modification of function, Bill could put together a treatment plan and mobilize it foursquare.

If the patient needed surgery Bill was connected to the best surgeons in the state and could shepherd them on that path. He always made himself available to talk about patients and clinical issues during in his busy day and you knew you were getting the straight scoop, and the patients did, too. The theme of his professional life was how deeply and honorably he cared about what was best for his patients and in this he remains a model to us all. Years after their time with him, patients still sing his praises and I want to join their voices in the gratitude we all feel.

Steve Bien, MD

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