Awards : Hall of Fame Award

Rodney Belcher, M.D. ’56

Rodney Belcher, M.D. ’56 was one of 26 medical students who graduated with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s first class. After completing three years as a flight surgeon with the US Navy, he entered the orthopaedic program at the Mayo Clinic, completing his training in 1963. For the next nine years, he practiced orthopaedic medicine in Arlington, Virginia, and served as director of orthopaedic education at Georgetown University. While Belcher was enjoying professional success in the US, he decided to teach orthopaedics at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. As a professor of surgery at Muhambili Hospital, he reorganized the trauma unit and directed it for two years. After depleting his personal resources, he returned to the US, to assume the position of clinical assistant professor and chief of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Georgetown. In 1983 as a Fulbright lecturer, Belcher was able to return to east Africa as a professor of orthopaedic surgery at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Unfortunately, he was forced to complete his work in Kenya at the University of Marirobe because of civil war in Uganda. His fellowship ended in 1986 and he moved on to the University of Alabama, Birmingham, as clinical associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and chief of orthopaedic surgery at Cooper Green Hospital and Jefferson Clinic.

Belcher was determined to return to Uganda once peace and stability were re-established. In 1989 he was appointed professor and chairman of orthopaedic surgery at Makerere University. He sought to rebuild the orthopaedic and rehabilitation services devastated by the 20 year civil war. He reinstated programs to manufacture orthotics and prosthetics for people injured in the war and for those stricken by polio. Belcher designed and supervised the building of the two best operating theaters in sub-Sahara Africa. His greatest achievement was the initiation of a four year orthopaedic training program leading to a master’s degree. The first group of students graduated in 1997. He also helped in improving the delivery of health care to Uganda’s rural areas. He stepped down as head of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Makerere University and Mulago National Hospital at the end of 1996. He continued his work as a consultant to the minister of health and to the government of Uganda.

On March 11, 1996 he was shot and killed during a carjacking outside the Mulago Hospital. At his funeral Belcher was honored by the vice president of Uganda, the minister of health, the US ambassador, and his family and friends. To honor and memorialize Belcher, the orthopaedic clinic he worked so hard to establish was named after him.