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A Tribute to Howard J. Sweeney, M.D.

It was with deep sadness that we learned of the recent passing of Howard J. Sweeney, M.D. Howard’s impact on those in his arthroscopic surgery profession and their patients is legendary and exceeded only by the love he had and the example he set for his large family. Prior to her passing in 2014, Howard was married for 65 years to the love of his life, Kathleen. He is survived by 7 children, 3 nieces, 21 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren. Joy permeated the Sweeney home where all were welcomed by Kathleen along with Howard’s mirthful grin and chuckle. Both in his private and professional life, he epitomized selflessness and a willingness to share everything from his home to his professional talents.

His undergraduate and medical school studies were completed at Northwestern University and his Orthopedic training at the Hines VA hospital in Chicago, Illinois from 1952-1955. Howard practiced at Evanston Hospital his entire career and taught at the Northwestern Medical School.For decades, he served as the Northwestern University Wildcats’ team doctor and as a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Chicago Medical School. Impassioned by the evolving field of arthroscopic surgery, he was one of the founding members of the International Arthroscopy Association in 1974 and later one of the charter members of the Arthroscopy Association of North America in 1981.Howard served as the President of AANA in 1988-1989 and in 2007 served as the first Godfather for the AANA Traveling Fellowship Program.

Howard was one of the leaders instrumental in bringing the concept of an arthroscopic skills training facility to fruition some nine years after the initial concepts for a lab were conceived.He chaired the AANA Psychomotor Skills Committee and helped explore the feasibility of potential options. After working tirelessly with colleagues from both AANA and the AAOS to overcome location and logistic hurdles, the construction of the Orthopedic Learning Center was completed as a joint venture coinciding with the Academy’s move to Rosemont, Illinois in 1992. Howard was one of 25 AANA leaders to sign personal promissory notes of $10,000 to guarantee funding the lab start-up costs. The first course was conducted in 1994. Howard served as a long-time board member and as president of the Orthopedic Learning Center in 1998-1999. It has been estimated that 4,000 to 5,000 surgeons have been trained at the original OLC since it first opened.

Howard was a visionary and innovator. From initial efforts to teach arthroscopic skills by having a trainee ‘scope a cabbage to learn triangulation’, to development of the ‘Swee-knee’ containing water and a flower (from which to practice cutting off the petals), there was no limit to the effort he would expend to help students learn his craft. He was the Founder and President of the Global Arthroscopy Foundation that provided surgeons from other nations the opportunity to come to the OLC in Rosemont for up to 6 weeks and be mentored by Dr. Sweeney in the principles and techniques of Arthroscopic Surgery. Tireless at age 84, he drafted a 13-page manuscript detailing how the OLC needed to change to remain at the forefront of preparing surgeons to perform excellent surgery arthroscopically. Many of his ideas are currently in various phases of implementation.


“As many of you know, I have a special place in my heart for AANA and the OLC.  We need to stay the leader in teaching and testing for arthroscopic surgery.”

                             – Howard J Sweeney, M.D., June 6, 2011


Be assured Howard, that we are determined to fulfill that mission!


Richard L. Angelo, M.D., Ph.D.
President, OLC (2020-2021)

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