Early in his medical career, Dr. Herzenberg remembers the frustration he felt as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon when dealing with clubfoot cases. During his training, he had been taught that extensive surgery was the only treatment that could correct this deformity. But he personally saw that the results of this treatment were often not acceptable. The operation was extremely invasive, and often the deformity would recur, leading to significant foot problems that frequently required even more surgery. He yearned to find a better way.
In 1997, Herzenberg found a book, “Congential Clubfoot, Fundamentals of Treatment,” written by pediatric orthopedic surgeon, Ignacio Ponseti, MD, from Iowa City. Though Ponseti had developed and proven his method to be successful over 30 years ago, this book was not published until 1996.
Herzenberg spoke with colleagues who worked with Dr. Ponseti at the University of Iowa and was impressed by the fact that clubfoot in Iowa rarely required extensive surgery. He decided to learn and practice the Ponseti Method and kept in close contact with Ponseti and his team in Iowa for advice. In 1998, Dr. Herzenberg invited Dr. Ponseti to Baltimore, Maryland, to review the first group of babies treated under his care. Dr. Ponseti confirmed Herzenberg’s success and declared that this was the first time someone not directly trained by Ponseti had used his technique as it was meant to be done.
Since he learned the Ponseti Method, Herzenberg has treated more than 200 babies with the Ponseti Method. He has made it his personal mission to reverse the long-standing practice of routine extensive surgery for clubfoot, which has been the standard among the pediatric orthopedic community. With more than 600 pediatric orthopedists in North America as potential converts, this is a difficult task. However, Herzenberg has found that as more and more pediatric orthopedists learn this technique they too become enthusiastic disciples, furthering the cause.
John E. Herzenberg, MD, currently serves as the head of pediatric orthopedic surgery at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore and Director of the International Center for Limb Lengthening. He is a dedicated researcher with numerous publications to his credit, including many research articles about clubfoot. His research findings regarding the success of the Ponseti Method on older infants have been published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics, Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, and in Orthopedics Today. He has presented his clubfoot research at scientific meetings and as a visiting professor at numerous hospitals around the world.