The president of the Association of Spine Surgeons of India and chairman of the Department of Orthopaedics and Spine Surgery at Ganga Hospital in Coimbatore, S. Rajasekaran, was chosen by the Royal College of Surgeons of England to deliver the Hunterian Oration for 2011.

Dr. Rajasekaran delivered the oration on Friday at Dublin in Ireland during the combined congress of the British and Irish Orthopaedic associations. John Getty, chairman of the Royal College, conducted the proceedings and awarded a medal to Dr. Rajasekaran.

The spine surgeon said that the Hunterian Committee of the Royal College elects one person every year from around the world, among all surgical specialties, as the Hunterian Professor. The chosen person is invited to present his or her work as an oration.

The Hunterian Professorship is considered one of the proudest traditional honours of the college bestowed on surgeons of eminence who had richly contributed to the field of surgery by original research or innovations. 

The award was named after Sir John Hunter, the founder of scientific surgery. His approach (‘True learning is only possible against the background of research') to the study of physiology and surgery resulted in a new scientific attitude towards surgery.  

Sir John Hunter died in 1793 and, in his honour, the Royal College of Surgeons of England instituted the Hunterian Professorship. A surgeon was selected for the professorship and the oration every year since 1810. 

Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, delivered the Hunterian Oration in 1919.  He was later awarded the Nobel Prize.

Dr. Rajasekaran is the second orthopaedic surgeon in India chosen for the professorship and oration after 55 years. B. Mukhopadhyay delivered the oration in orthopaedics in 1956.

The work that fetched Dr. Rajasekaran the honour was “Growth modulation and buckling collapse of pediatric spine and its clinical implications.”

In a press release, he said this work had been done over a period of 15 years and was a classic example of successful “bench to bed-side research”.  The research involved identifying the clinical sequence of events of massive spinal deformities. 

More than two million children around the world suffered from this problem annually and this could lead to the onset of paralysis of limbs and early death due to cardio-respiratory failure, he said. 

Dr. Rajasekaran's research involved methods of early identification of children who were at risk of such problems. The second stage of research involved studying the biomechanical forces across the growth plate of vertebra by the creation of a finite element model of a paediatric spine.  The findings opened up the possibility of new methods of treatment of spinal deformities based on the principles of growth modulation.  This research won the Tamil Nadu Government Scientist Award in 2000, the Silver Jubilee Award of the Medical Council of India in 2002, the Sofamer Danek Award of International Society for Study of Lumbar Spine, Canada, in 2002 and the Macnab LaRocca Award of the society in 2005.