Celebrating the Legacy of Marvin L. Shelton, MD

Pioneer and Innovator in Lower Extremity & Trauma Surgery

Black and white photo of Dr. Shelton  in a tweed suit and tie with glasses

Dr. Marvin L. Shelton

Dr. Marvin L. Shelton’s commitment to the advancement of trauma surgery led to a long career of excellence whose legacy still plays a role in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery today. Colleagues, mentees, and friends stressed his dedication both inside and outside the operating room during his time at CUIMC. Dr. Shelton’s leadership and innovation not only drove him to become the first African American attending orthopedic surgeon at CUIMC but motivated him to hone his craft and encourage others to take up the mantle of advancing trauma surgery.

Dr. Shelton, a native of Pittsburgh, graduated Valedictorian from Howard University Medical School in 1956. He became an officer in the US Army Medical Corp, where he worked his way up to Major. After completing his service in 1964, Dr. Shelton interned at Tripler General US Army Hospital and pursued an orthopedic residency at Shriner’s Hospital for Crippled Children in Honolulu, Hawaii, before relocating to serve as Chief of Orthopaedics at a United States Hospital in Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Formal photo showing a group of physicians in white coats.

Dr. Shelton, upper left corner, and the faculty of the New York Orthopaedic Hospital.

Dr. Frank Stinchfield, Chairman of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at CUIMC, recruited Dr. Shelton to the department in 1968. He became the first African American board-certified attending orthopedic surgeon at CUIMC and the first to gain admitting privileges at an Ivy League institution. During his four decades as an attending, Dr. Shelton’s leadership, innovation, and drive would leave a mark on the department.

As an attending surgeon, Dr. Shelton spent much of his time treating trauma patients and innovating implants for ankle and lower extremity fractures. His work led him to create the Neer-Grantham-Shelton Plate, a contoured plate and screw system for femur supracondylar fractures, and the contoured plate system for fractures of the distal fibula. Dr. Shelton pioneered advances in orthopedic surgery as well, including the surgical technique of Trimalleolar Dislocations. His accomplishments aided in his membership to many prestigious medical academies and associations such as the American Orthopaedic Association, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, the American College of Surgeons, and the Orthopaedic Trauma Association. His leadership and innovation led him to serve as Chairman of the Orthopaedic Section of the National Medical Association, Examiner for the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, and visiting professor at many prestigious universities in the US, including Yale University.

Group photo of surgeons posed in an operating room

Dr. Marvin Shelton, third from the left, with faculty of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery.

Dr. Shelton’s dedication to the advancement of trauma surgery motivated him to encourage medical students and fellows to pursue this area of medicine. During his time at CUIMC, Dr. Shelton also served as the Director of Orthopaedic Surgery and Head of the Residency Training Program at Harlem Hospital Center. Under his tutelage, the residency program gained full accreditation in 1968, making it the second program at a historically African-American institution to gain accreditation in the US. Dr. Shelton continued to lead the residency program for 30 years. He mentored and taught residents who would become the next leaders in orthopedic trauma, including Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser, Chief, Hand, Microvascular & Trauma Surgery in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at CUIMC.

Dr. Shelton’s legacy of excellence continues to live on since his passing from multiple myeloma in 2004. His focus on using science to improve orthopedic trauma patient care and his mentorship method that allowed residents to gain responsibility in the OR gradually can still be seen in the department today. Dr. Shelton’s leadership and innovation led the department to create, in partnership with his family and friends, the Marvin L. Shelton, M.D. Lecture Series in Orthopaedic Trauma and sponsor residents’ attendance at the Orthopaedics Trauma Association (OTA) Residents Basic Fracture Course as a way to honor his memory.

Dr. Marvin Shelton was a consummate surgeon and teacher of trauma surgery. His mastery of anatomy and astute decision-making left a mark on all of the residents under his tutelage.

Dr. Rosenwasser

If you would like to make a gift to support the Marvin L. Shelton, MD, Memorial Lectureship, please click here or contact Jamie Montgomery, Senior Director of Development, at 917.484.0090.