Emeritus professor of orthopaedic surgery, Robert G. Volz, MD, passes away

Dec. 20, 2023

College of Medicine – Tucson

Robert G. Volz, MD, emeritus professor of orthopaedic surgery, co-founder of the University of Arizona Arthritis Center, and founder of the UArizona Orthopaedic Research Laboratory now known as the Robert G. Volz, MD, Orthopaedic Research Laboratories, passed away peacefully on December 17 at the age of 91.

Robert G. Volz, MD

Robert G. Volz, MD

Volz graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in 1957 and completed orthopaedic specialty training at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He then moved to Denver, where he practiced for several years and served as the head of the orthopaedic service at Denver Children’s Hospital.

Volz was recruited to the UArizona Health Sciences Center in 1973 to build a total joint surgery program in the newly-founded Department of Orthopaedics, where he served as chief from 1985 until he retired in 1992.

Known as an innovator, visionary, and collaborator, Volz combined his love for practicing medicine with his passion for teaching and research. He was a true pioneer in the field of orthopaedic surgery, designing some of the first artificial joints. His inventions included the first wrist prosthesis in the United States, which at the time was one of only two such devices in existence. Its success paved the way for use in medical centers around the world, and in 1974 it was recognized by the American Hospital Association as one of the country’s ten major medical advances. He subsequently designed a total elbow prosthesis and an artificial knee joint that was widely used in the United States and beyond.

His collaboration with the late Eric Gall, MD, professor of medicine and UAAC co-founder, created a novel environment in which orthopaedic residents and rheumatology fellows cared for patients in the same clinic. The unique patient-centered model informed and inspired many budding orthopaedic surgeons and rheumatologists who were part of the program. The UAAC has since grown to be a multidisciplinary hub of patient care, research, education and innovation.

Volz was an honored professor emeritus and recognized by UArizona as one of its top innovators of the past 100 years. He continues to be recognized nationally and internationally for his many scientific contributions to the field of medicine, which, combined with the care he provided to patients and the knowledge he imparted on trainees, have helped relieve suffering and improve the quality of life for countless patients worldwide.

Volz is survived by Ann, his wife of 66 years; children Kathy Clark, Thomas Volz, Amy Jobst, and Jack Volz; and grandchildren Ashleigh Volz, Emily Volz, Derek and Ellie Jobst, and Katie, Graham and Peter Clark.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, Jan. 12, at 11 a.m. at St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church located at 4440 N. Campbell Ave., Tucson, AZ 85718. In lieu of flowers, the family has designated donations in memory of Volz be directed to the University of Arizona Arthritis Center or St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church.