Dr. Alan Freeland and orthopedic resident Donald Baker

A hand shake. A pat on someone's shoulder. A wave "hello." An individual's hands help in social interactions, not to mention the critical role they play in defining skill level. Hands are instrumental for work, protection, sustenance, play and expression.  

Think of the hand functions of surgeons, rescue personnel, musicians, artisans, chefs, farmers, builders, dentists, firefighters, athletes and many more. That's what inspired Dr. Alan E. Freeland of the University of Mississippi Medical Center to recently contribute $100,000 to help build an endowed professorship in hand surgery.

"It's wonderful to be able to restore a patient's hand function," Freeland said of his long career as a hand surgeon. "The hope is that this faculty support will help attract an outstanding hand surgeon to help train our students and residents and keep Mississippi active."

The Alan E. Freeland, M.D. Professorship of Orthopedic Hand Surgery was first established in 2000 by a $500,000 gift from the Hansjoerg Wyss AO Medical Foundation to honor Freeland and provide funds for the recruitment and retention of a specialist in orthopedics and clinical research. The goal of the professorship-which continued to accept gifts-is to ensure that quality teaching, clinical research and service will be available to future generations of medical students, orthopedic residents and fellows.

Dr. Robert McGuire, professor and chair of orthopedic surgery, expressed appreciation for the impact Freeland's gift will have. "In these days of decreased national and state funding for medical education, professorships of this nature provide an additional source of revenue at the departmental level to assist in the training of our residents and fellows," he said.

After his training and military service, Freeland joined the UMMC family in 1978. "It looked like an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an orthopedics program, and it has indeed grown and flourished. A person has a family at home and a family at work, and the Medical Center is definitely a great family. I've truly enjoyed taking care of my patients and working with wonderful professionals. I want to keep contributing as long as I can." 

The physician received a bachelor's degree from Johns Hopkins University and his medical degree from George Washington University. He completed his internship and general surgery residency at Church Home and Hospital in Baltimore. He was a fellow in neurosurgery and a fellow and resident in orthopedic surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The physician entered the U. S. Army in 1971. After spending a year at the 121st Evacuation Hospital in Seoul, Korea, he completed training at Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco. He later became chief of orthopaedic surgery at the U.S. Army Hospital at Fort Campbell, Ky., and then completed a fellowship at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Fla.

He achieved the rank of professor at UMMC in 1986. He provided leadership as chief of staff from 1986 to1987 and in the same capacity at the Mississippi Methodist Medical Center from 1994 to 1995. He established the Hand Fellowship Program in the UMMC Department of Orthopedic Surgery in 1991 and served as director for 13 years.

Freeland is former president of the Jackson Orthopaedic Society, Mississippi Orthopaedic Society, Southeastern Hand Club and the American Association for Hand Surgery. In 1998, he was selected as the American Association for Hand Surgery National Clinician-Teacher of the Year and named Vargus International Traveling Physician for the American Association for Hand Surgery.

The physician has published numerous articles and chapters, served as editor and member of editorial boards, and lectured extensively nationally and abroad. Among his books, he authored "The 25-Year History of the American Association for Hand Surgery."

He is an honorary member of the Romanian and Venezuelan Societies for Surgery of the Hand, along with being a corresponding member of the Argentine and Columbian societies for Surgery of the Hand. Freeland is also listed in the "Guide to America's Top Surgeons" and "Castle Connolly's Guide to America's Top Doctors."  Freeland retired from his clinical practice in 2005 and was named distinguished physician and professor emeritus-consultant/researcher. He continues to work with residents and fellows with their research projects. The physician also serves on UMMC's Institutional Review Board.

His wife, Janis-whom he calls the "cornerstone of the family"- has just retired as a registered nurse in the UMMC Department of Orthopedic Surgery. They are the parents of four adult children: Matthew, Jennifer, Rebecca and Michael, and the grandparents of three: Carson, Conner and Parker.

The Alan E. Freeland, M.D. Professorship of Orthopedic Hand Surgery is open to accept gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, mail a check with the fund noted to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655; contact Denson Hollis, development office, at 662-915-5092 or dhollis@olemiss.edu; or visit www.givetoumc.edu.

Tina Hahn