Stephen Andrew Copeland

Stephen Andrew Copeland 1946-2019

Stephen Copeland was a leader in Shoulder Surgery in the UK, Europe and the World for 30 years following his appointment as a Consultant in Reading in 1979. He died from a recurrence of malignancy after a non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which first occurred in 1998. Steve became a leading shoulder surgeon in the UK from 1984 when he started the Reading Shoulder Course which then became a national and international institution.

While still at school, he started his career as an inventor - he designed “A new method of Measuring Thermal Conductivity of Metals” which he registered with the British Standards Institute in 1963 and which is still used to test the maturity of metal samples today. In 1965 he went to Medical School at St Bartholomew’s (Bart’s) in London. In his second year at medical school he designed and built his own sports car but this was not as successful as his earlier project. He later focussed on Porsche, Aston Martin and Ferrari designs – all of which he owned and enjoyed. He obtained his FRCS from the Royal College of Surgeons of England by examination in 1974. As a Senior Registrar he won the Benjamin Gooch Prize for Clinical Research in 1977 for a unique review of the outcome from an operation to treat patients with a form of Muscular Dystrophy in which the shoulder blade is anchored to the chest wall to improve the function of the arm. This was later to be published as Steve’s first shoulder paper in the British Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery in 1978 and remains a landmark paper.

He was a disciple of Professor Lipmann Kessel in London (called Lippy by everyone) who organised and ran the first ever International Congress on Surgery of the Shoulder in 1980. Steve presented a new operation for treating acromio-clavicular joint injuries at that meeting. In 1979 Steve had been appointed a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at the Royal Berkshire Hospital – a District General Hospital in Reading - at the exceptionally young age of 33. Most Consultant appointees at that time were 36 to 40 years old. He worked there initially as a general trauma and orthopaedic surgeon, with an interest in paediatric orthopaedics whilst also building a shoulder practice. His commitment initially was a 1 in 4 on-call rota for trauma and it was not until 1994 that Steve finally focused totally on Shoulder Surgery – both arthroscopic and shoulder replacement surgery. During his early consultant years he was also awarded the very prestigious ABC travelling Fellowship by the British Orthopaedic Association in 1982 and a Johnson & Johnson Travelling Fellowship in 1985.

From the mid-1980’s Steve’s career took off. Steve became a member of a group of five pioneering shoulder surgeons in the UK (Ian Bayley, Michael Watson, Angus Wallace and Ian Kelly) and he was a founding member of the British Shoulder and Elbow Society in 1988. He developed his own shoulder replacement – the Copeland shoulder which was marketed from 1986 initially by Zimmer and later by Biomet. He has published 58 referenced research papers (see Appendix 1), written 4 textbooks, 10 chapters in textbooks, a number of teaching videotapes and he produced a DVD called the Virtual Shoulder which shows in 3 dimensions the shape and anatomy of the shoulder.

He was appointed President of the British Shoulder and Elbow Society from 1995 to 1997 and President of the European Society for Shoulder and Elbow Surgery from 1999 to 2001.

He is personally responsible for upgrading UK surgeons in shoulder surgery through his famous Reading Shoulder Courses which have taken place every 2 years since 1984 and at which the world leader of Shoulder Surgery – Dr Charles Neer II from New York was a regular guest lecturer initially and later his great friend Louis Bigliani replaced Dr Neer as the International Guest Lecturer. The Reading Shoulder Course was subsequently reproduced in four other countries. Steve was very proud of all his Fellows and a complete list of his Fellows is provided in Appendix 2.

In 1998 Steve developed a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma which prevented him from attending the 7th International Congress on Shoulder Surgery in Sydney, Australia (the first triennial Shoulder Congress that he had missed). He was fortunate to recover completely from his lymphoma and was back working full-time again in 1999 until his retirement in 2010.

The respect that Steve has gained world-wide is reflected in his invitations as a Special Guest Lecturer. Over a two year period (1999/2000) he was a guest lecturer at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Meeting, Los Angeles; the Royal Society of Medicine, London; the Spanish Orthopaedic Association, Cordoba, Spain; The European Federation of Orthopaedic & Trauma Societies, Brussels; The European Society for Surgery of the Shoulder and Elbow, the Hague; The Calgary Shoulder and Elbow Course, Canada and at the International Shoulder Arthroplasty Course, in Paris. He was elected a Fellow Ad Hominem by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 2000.

Steve was appointed the 3rd Chairman of the International Board of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery (after Charles Neer and Bob Cofield) from 2005 to 2010 and he was also awarded the very prestigious Sir Robert Jones Lecturer by the British Orthopaedic Association in 2005. He was a past member of the editorial board of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (British); the first corresponding member of the American Shoulder and Elbow Society (ASES) in 2006; and was elected an honorary member of the Shoulder Surgery Societies of Australia, Spain, Argentina, South Africa, Korea, India and Japan.

Behind every great man there is an even greater woman and supporting Steve was Jenny – who worked as a General Practitioner in Henley. They first met as students at Bart’s and married in 1972. They were an extremely happy couple with 2 children – Sara and Matthew, now both married and they have 5 grandchildren. He will be sadly missed by his whole family.

Steve Copeland retired from clinical practice in 2010 and his practice in the Reading Shoulder Unit has been taken over by Professor Ofer Levy, Mr Giuseppe Sforza, Mr Juan Bruguera, and Mr Ali Narvani.

Steve was a true leader in shoulder surgery, known worldwide for his unique and innovative approach to shoulder surgery, as one of the pioneers in shoulder arthroscopy and the “Father” of shoulder resurfacing (the Copeland Surface replacement) and stemless arthroplasty (the Verso Shoulder Arthroplasty). He was a masterful teacher, excellent surgeon, great friend and caring family man. Above all, he was a true gentleman and a humble man.

W Angus Wallace & Mike Thomas

Letter from Herbert Resch to Steve Copeland.docx

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