A Pioneer in Spine Surgery
Dr. Zdeblick has long been recognized as one of the most skilled and innovative spine surgeons in the country.
At the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Zdeblick, along with Ray Vanderby PhD, developed the UW Biomechanics lab. His research focused on the combination of biomechanics and biology in the healing of spinal fusion. Aided over the years by four PhD graduate students and six spine fellow researchers, the lab developed animal models of spinal healing and helped introduce instrumentation to spinal surgery.
In 1993, Dr. Zdeblick established the UW Spine Surgery Fellowship program, which has trained over 35 orthopedic and neurosurgery fellows who have become leaders in the field. He has also trained over 150 Orthopedic Surgery Residents.
An Outstanding Academician and Author
Dr. Zdeblick was named a tenured Professor in 1997, and has published over 100 scientific articles, given over 300 national and international lectures, has edited seven textbooks, including the two most recent volumes of Master Techniques in Orthopedics, and was Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Spinal Disorders from 2002 until 2017.
He also served on the Boards of both the UWMF (University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation) and the UWHCA (Hospital Authority Board), in addition to establishing and leading the Freedom of Movement Fund Development Board, organized to generate philanthropic support for essential orthopedic research at UW.
An Inventor and Innovator
Utilizing his engineering background, Dr. Zdeblick has received over 20 patents for the design of spinal implants and instruments, resulting in nine of his implant designs being utilized clinically. This allowed him to partner with industry, as he introduced those implants through lectures and surgical demonstrations in over 25 countries.
Active in the Cervical Spine Research Society (CSRS), Dr. Zdeblick served as its program chair, treasurer, and President. In 2008, he founded a sister society, the Lumbar Spine Research Society (LSRS), which is one of the first medical societies that functions without industry funding. After serving as president from 2008-2012, he has remained active as the society steadily grows.
An inspiring leader
In 2000, Dr. Zdeblick was asked to take over the leadership of the Division of Orthopedics. Working with Dean Phil Farrell and Surgery Chairman Bing Rikkers, the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation was created, with Zdeblick serving as founding Chair.
Throughout his 22 years as Chair, Dr. Zdeblick advanced his goal of building excellence and distinction in clinical outcomes, translatable research, and graduate training programs within the department – resulting in local, regional, and national prominence.
During his tenure as Chair, the Department grew to include 38 surgeons, 12 Rehabilitation Medicine physicians, and five PhD researchers. In support of this expansion, the Orthopedic Research Laboratory was redesigned and relocated to WIMR (Wisconsin Institute for Medical Research). Due in part to his vision, the East Madison Hospital (EMH) was designed and built to augment the efficiency of the Orthopedic program. The first hospital in the country to be built utilizing Lean Principles throughout, EMH has been a huge patient and provider satisfier. Over the past three years, the Department has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report in the top 20 orthopedic departments in the country.
Education and Training
Dr. Thomas A. Zdeblick grew up in the city and suburbs of Chicago. At Marquette University, he played soccer and jazz saxophone and earned a degree in Biomedical Engineering. Following medical school at Tufts University, he trained in the Orthopedic Surgery Residency at Case Western Reserve University. He also completed a research fellowship in microsurgery while at Case.
While in Cleveland, he met his first surgical mentor, Henry Bohlman MD, and embarked upon a career in spinal surgery. His spine surgery fellowship at Johns Hopkins was a combined Orthopedic/Neurosurgical fellowship. In 1989, Dr. Zdeblick was hired by Dr. Folkert Belzer in the Department of Surgery, Division of Orthopedics, at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Belzer, an iconic transplant surgeon, became a leadership mentor.