All About Bone

By Roy Meals

I grew up in Kansas City and spent as much time as a could on my grandparents’ farm in central Missouri. There I saw the whole life cycle of bones from birth to butcher to table. I have always enjoyed being outside, and I am not sure whether that stimulated my interest in natural history or vice versa. Either way, my interests led me to major in biology at Rice University, where I gained a deep appreciation for the diversity and adaptations of animal life. During medical school at Vanderbilt University I had the opportunity to further explore the workings and failings of human tissues and was particularly attracted to bone. It appealed to my mechanical, three-dimensional way of thinking.

These inclinations led to an orthopedic surgery residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where I had the opportunity to drill down, both literally and figuratively, on living bone. The residency was interrupted for two years by my military obligation, which I fulfilled as a general medical officer in Turkey. That experience, and the regional travel opportunities it allowed in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe put bones into an entirely new perspective for me—their historic and cultural implications. The ways that the Hittites and ancient Egyptians managed their dead brethren and the ways that various civilizations have used bone as implements, weapons, and ornamentation enhanced my interest in the unique composition and multiple purposes of bone.

After completing a hand surgery fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, I joined the orthopedic surgery faculty at UCLA, where my current title is Clinical Professor. My career in academic medicine has allowed me not only to manage many difficult bone abnormalities in the upper extremity, it has also provided the opportunity to write extensively on these topics. This includes many peer-reviewed journal articles and two books, One Hundred Orthopedic Conditions Every Doctor Should Understand and The Hand Owner’s Manual, A Hand Surgeon’s Thirty Year Collection of Important Information and Fascinating Facts. My interest in writing extends to improving the form and content of the works of others. I have been on the senior editorial board of the Journal of Hand Surgery for most of my career including a five-year term as Editor-in-Chief.

Travel continues to interest me, and visits to all of the inhabited continents and 48 states have provided study opportunities regarding my interest in bone. Museums devoted to natural history, archaeology, paleontology, anthropology, maritime history, and even fine art and musical instruments exhibit bones and bone artefacts and vouch for its durability and versatility. I have savoured each visit.

I now want to organize my observations and experiences with bone, and in a systematic way share my passion with others. Starting with a blog, and a five-part lecture series in the 2018 winter quarter at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute @ UCLA, my plan is to eventually turn the collected information into a book: Bone. Supporting Life, Capturing History.


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