The family and professional associates of a prominent hand surgeon who died Saturday released a statement on Monday mourning their loss.
Harold E. Kleinert, M.D., FACS, the internationally renowned hand and upper extremity surgeon and founder of Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center, was 91 years old.
“Harold Kleinert was a truly remarkable physician, medical pioneer, teacher and friend, and our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Sharon and family,” Thomas Wolff, M.D., of Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center, said in the statement. “He cared for generations of patients and families and created an extraordinary legacy that all of the physicians and staff of Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center proudly carry on today.
“He was a teacher and inspiration to over 1,300 hand surgeons whom he trained from the U.S. and around the world. Kentuckiana has been very fortunate that this man from Sunburst, Montana, decided to come to Louisville 60 years ago and, in doing so, made it the world capital of hand surgery.”
Kleinert’s family recalled his wit and thanked the community for its support.
“The death of Harold Kleinert has left a void impossible to fill in our hearts and lives,” the Kleinert family said in the statement. “We will miss our gentle father and loving husband. His love was boundless, his work ethic daunting, his western wit so sharply surprising and funny, his competitiveness a challenge. We will miss his presence and his sage advice in all matters of life, and sincerely thank the community for the outpouring of condolences and fond remembrances.”
A Pioneer in the Field of Hand Surgery
A native of Montana, Kleinert attended Northern Montana College and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1943 and Temple University School of Medicine in 1946. In 1953, he brought hand surgery as a specialty to Louisville when he became a Surgical Instructor at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and started a hand surgery clinic that grew into the world renowned Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center.
Kleinert established the Christine M. Kleinert Fellowship in Hand Surgery program through the University of Louisville in 1960. Named in honor of his mother, the program has trained more than 1,300 physicians from 58 countries and has been the catalyst for groundbreaking research and achievements in hand and microsurgery.
“Dr. Kleinert believed that if you do something well, you have an obligation to share that knowledge by teaching others,” Wolff said. “He shared his knowledge with medical students and surgeons and was really an inspiration to everyone around him.”
When once asked in an interview what he considered his greatest accomplishment to be, Kleinert said: “It is the thousands of hand fellows from across the world who have trained in Louisville, shared information with us and returned to their countries to do and teach hand surgery.”
In a career that spanned decades, Kleinert lectured extensively on every continent and in nearly every country and authored more than 200 scientific articles. He pioneered the two-bed operating room and was the innovator of regional anesthesia for outpatient surgery as well as inventor of a number of microsurgery instruments and innovations, including the double-head operating microscope and fine microsuture.
Throughout his career, Kleinert championed teamwork, realizing that it was the combined efforts of hospital staff, physicians and emergency medical services personnel that created the highest quality of care and the best possible outcomes for patients.
A Truly Distinguished Career
Kleinert served as clinical professor of surgery at the University of Louisville until his retirement from medical practice in 2008. He was honored with the title of clinical professor of surgery emeritus in 2012.
He was certified by the American Board of Surgery, a Fellow in the American College of Surgeons and a member of many medical organizations. He also served as president of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, Louisville Surgical Society and Jewish Hospital medical staff.
Among his many awards were the American Medical Association Scientific Achievement Award, the Scudder Orator from the American College of Surgeons, the University of Louisville School of Medicine and Louisville Surgical Society Yandell Lecturer Award, the Jewish Hospital Maimonides Award and the Ad Astra Award for Distinguished Service to the University of Louisville School of Medicine.
Kleinert served in the United States Air Force [Colonel, retired], with 20 years in the Army Air Force and Reserves and as flight surgeon for the Kentucky Air National Guard. He also served as National Consultant in Hand Surgery to the Surgeon General, United States Air Force.
Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center is one of the largest hand care programs in the world providing comprehensive upper extremity care. Its offices are located in Louisville, Lexington and New Albany. Dr. Kleinert’s legacy of caring will continue to be carried on by a team of 12 Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center physicians who are dedicated to restoring to patients the function and quality of life associated with strong, healthy hands and arms.
Funeral services for Kleinert will be at 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7. at Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 South Fifth St.. Louisville, with burial in Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville.Visitation will from 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday, at Scott Funeral Homes North Chapel, Jeffersonville. Expressions of sympathy may be made to the Christine M. Kleinert Institute, 225 Abraham Flexner Way, Louisville, KY 40202.
Left to treasure his memory besides his thousands of patients, colleagues and friends are his wife, Sharon E. Stamper; children Harold L. and his wife, Jane, Robert Amil and his wife, Susan, Christine Schrodt and her husband, Randy, James M. and his wife, Tori, Jean Rueff and her husband, Robert, and Louisa; his 14 grandchildren Adam and his wife, Kristin, Katie Rhawn and her husband, Stockie, Alex Schrodt, Lisa, Grant Rueff, Michael and his wife, Julie, Matt, Kelly and his wife, Lizzy, Zach Schrodt and his wife, Ashley, Kristina Gillooly and her husband, Andy, Coady Brownstein and her husband, Alex, Carl Rueff, Lauren, and Alan Rueff ; 12 great-grandchildren and special dear ones, Jorge, Tara, and Harry Reis, and great-niece Ashley Grinnalds for her loving care. He is also survived by many loving nieces and nephews.