The Curtis National Hand Center at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital is one of the world’s largest and most experienced hand centers, and is home to the country’s largest collection of hand surgeons and specially trained hand therapists. We treat over 25,000 patients each year. As the designated hand and upper extremity trauma center for the state of Maryland, we have also cared for over 1,200 hand trauma patients.
In 1994, the U.S. Congress designated appropriations for the purposed of creating a National Hand Center for the treatment of the hand and upper extremities at the Curtis Hand Center in MedStar Union Memorial Hospital. The Curtis National Hand Center is housed in a specially designed 23,000 square-foot facility, which occupies two floors of the Johnston Professional Building at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Raymond M. Curtis, upon returning from World War II duty, pioneered the concept of the Hand Center at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital. Under his guidance, hand surgeons, occupational and physical therapists provided a multi-disciplinary approach to the treatment of hand and upper extremity disorders.
In 1975, Dr. R. Adams Cowley enlisted Dr. Curtis to organize and run the Upper Extremity Trauma Unit for the Maryland Institute of Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS). MedStar Union Memorial Hospital was designated as a Hand Trauma Center, the only such center in the United States to be so recognized under a State Emergency System.
The hospital then began to receive referrals from the entire state of Maryland and adjacent areas of Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware. This concentration of patients with upper extremity injuries provided a unique teaching opportunity so in 1978, a one-year Fellowship in hand surgery was established. Over the ensuing years, the Hand Center added research facilities, a microsurgical laboratory and collaborated on various inventions used in the delivery of care/therapy to the upper extremities.
In 1994, recognizing the Hand Center's singular experience and expertise, the 103rd Congress designated it as The National Center for the Treatment of the Hand and Upper Extremity. Capitalizing on this Congressional mandate, the Hand Center's leaders expanded its clinical training and research programs.
Dr. E.F. Shaw Wilgis, a prominent leader today at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, is a revered founding surgeon among four, of the internationally recognized The Curtis National Hand Center. He served as its chief for more than ten years. But that’s just the beginning of a long, far-reaching career and a lifetime of achievement. Watch the video to learn more on his incredible journey from hand surgery, to leadership to research.
Library and Museum – The Curtis National Hand Center houses many artifacts from the early development of hand surgery. These items are described and displayed throughout The Curtis National Hand Center and include surgical instruments as well as the original BTE (Baltimore Therapeutic Equipment) work simulator developed by John Engalitcheff. In addition, photographs of early hand surgery, microsurgery, and the hand surgeons instrumental in the development of these techniques are displayed on the Mezzanine Level of the Hand Center.
In January 2000, The American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) donated its archives and library to The Curtis National Hand Center. Artifacts, including such items as a Civil War era dynamometer, are on display in the Hand Center. Also included in the library are many original text books, journals, audio tapes and video tapes from the ASSH that date from the original founding of the Society in 1946. The library is available for research purposes. Students and physicians wishing to utilize the library should call 410-554-6593.
Teleconference Center – a state-of-the-art educational facility which provides advanced electronic presentation capabilities for telemedicine.
After a saw cut his hand in half during a home remodeling accident, competitive wakeboarder, Michael Stellabotte, was not sure he was going to be able to use his hand again. Thanks to Dr. Kenneth Means and The Curtis National Hand Center at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, Michael is able to use his hand to compete again.
Surgeons Ryan Katz, MD, and James Higgins, MD, from the Curtis National Hand Center (CNHC) at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital performed this complex microsurgery and have advanced the treatment of congenital radial dysplasia, known as “radial club hand.” The groundbreaking approach uses bones, a joint, and growth plates from the patient's foot.
To find a hand surgeon, call: