Alvin H. Crawford, MD, FAOA, an alumnus of the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has been the recipient of many awards and accolades during his illustrious, decades-long career as a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon.
The latest is the American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) Pillar of the Orthopaedic Profession Award bestowed June 16 during the AOA Annual Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island.
Dr. Crawford, a professor emeritus of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, was the first African American to graduate from the UTHSC College of Medicine in 1964. He is acknowledged as one of the nation’s foremost authorities on video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, which allows surgeons to insert rods through small incisions to straighten the spine. Additionally, he is lauded by the many physicians he has trained.
It is this recognition by those he has mentored during his career that perhaps means the most to him, he said. Recipients of the AOA award are nominated by individuals who have been mentored and trained by the recipient, as a way to honor contributions to the profession.
“This may be the first objective award that I’ve received,” Dr. Crawford said. “I’ve received lots of awards for speaking, for surgical procedures, for all kinds of things, but this has nothing to do with what I’m doing or saying, it has to do with the recipient. This is based on people who have, in whatever way, benefited from the things that I tried to do over the years, and that means much, much more to me. It shows the residual effect of what they thought, based on their exposure and experience with me over the last 40 years.”
Dr. Crawford grew up in the Orange Mound area of Memphis in the 1950s. He has inspired countless students and trainees in his profession and continues his relationship with UTHSC. He has returned for reunions, graduation, and he and his wife have established the Alvin H. and Alva J. Crawford Endowed Medical Scholarship to support UTHSC medical students.
He no longer operates, however, he continues to inspire and guide the next generation of physicians. He is the founder and sponsor of Black Men in Medicine Cincinnati (BMIMC), a mentoring organization aimed at increasing awareness of the need for Black men in medicine.
“It’s an effort to promote recruiting and sustaining African-American males in the field of medicine, which is a very diminishing number now, and I want to do what I can to see if we can increase that number,” Dr. Crawford said. “So, that’s where most of my energy is going. I still teach the fellows in pediatric orthopaedics, but I stopped operating, and this is where my major emphasis is at this time.”
After many firsts and considerable career accomplishments, Dr. Crawford has advice for those who will follow in his footsteps – do not be deterred by obstacles.
“Where you were born, maybe in poor circumstances, discrimination, whatever there is, go for it,” he said. “Put in your effort, hitch your wagon to a star, hopefully a mentor or mentors, and then pursue your dream in spite of everything. If you put enough effort into whatever your dreams are, you can achieve it.”