Sekel, Ronald

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Ronald (Ron) Sekel is an Orthopaedic Surgeon and researcher. He invented the internationally acclaimed Margron Hip Replacement System in 1992, and founded the NSW Bone Bank, becoming Inaugral Honorary Director of the service in 1994. He remains Founding Chairman and Chief Researcher of Portland Orthopaedics Ltd, a research, development, manufacture and export company.

Ron graduated from Medicine in 1964 and completed his internship at both the Prince of Wales and the Prince Henry Hospitals. He then entered General Practice for a year before taking an appointment as Registrar in Orthopaedics at the Bankstown and Sutherland Hospitals. From 1969 to 1970 he was Registrar in General Surgery at Concord Repatriation Hospital, receiving his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (Edinburgh) in General Surgery at the end of the year. For the next two years, he participated in the Australian Orthopaedic Association Training Scheme and on conclusion was made a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Orthopaedics.

Ron first came on to the staff of St George Hospital in 1974 as a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and has remained loyally in this role to date. Early on, he developed a special interest in the surgery of arthritis, including primary and revision joint replacement, surgery of the spine, and tumour surgery.

Aided with a grant from the Australian Government,[1] his original research led to the development of a unique total hip replacement with hydroxyapatite surface coating, the Margron Hip Replacement System. Since the prototypes availability in 1992, the system has been revised and further refined into a primary, revision and tumour prosthesis. In 1997, one hundred patients were prospectively implanted with the Margron Hip Replacement System and a multi-centred trial was established. Ron says of his innovation:

The double threaded cone hip replacement system is particularly of value by-passing distorted proximal femoral anatomy and also by-passing large bone stock defects at the top end of the femur in revision and tumour work. There is also a mini series available that has been especially of assistance with Asian and small anatomy patients.

The Margron Hip Replacement System has and continues to receive international acclaim. In 2000, the USA Food and Drug Administration provided a substantial grant for ongoing development of the System. In March 2000, the manufacturers received the USA and Israel Medical Device Licence, by April they received a Manufacturing Innovation Excellence Award, and by May the System won the Inaugural Australian Technology Showcase Patrons’ Award for Outstanding Achievement in International Markets.

In 2005 the US government approved another of Ron’s substantial innovative developments for use, the new hip replacement prosthesis called the Equator Plus Hip System. Ron says that “the Equator plus acetabular cup design has the potential to improve longevity of hip replacements as it has the potential to eliminate polyethylene back wear and the passage of the mildly toxic polyethylene wear particles travelling through the back of the cup screw holes and thereby damaging the underlying bone”.[1]

Aside from developing these innovations, Ron has maintained his career as an Orthopaedic surgeon at St George Public and Private Hospitals. As a surgeon, the majority of his work has remained in the speciality of Hip and Knee Joint Replacement Surgery, including Revision Joint Replacement.

In addition, in 1986 he became involved in the development of the aerial obstetric emergency retrieval service in New South Wales which provided rapid emergency services to outlying country towns (this was taken over by the Air Ambulance in 1986). In 1994, he started the New South Wales Bone Bank as Inaugural Honorary Director. According to Ron:

In 1994 NSW was the largest populated state in Australia, and it was necessary to develop a Bone Bank in parallel to those already well established in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. The St George Hospital Division of Surgery volunteered to fund and house the Bank, and so a full bone retrieval service was established, contributing to the national pool of available donor bone for limb reconstruction. The Bone Bank remains housed at the St George Hospital, and is now well established.

Since 2000, Ron has also maintained an academic role as Conjoint Professor in the Schools of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of NSW. Strong links in engineering may seem strange for a surgeon, but prosthesis research and development has much in common with engineering, and surprisingly, with aero-space engineering. The materials used for implant design and manufacture are identical, and close ties with the Engineering Faculties have made the hip project possible. In this dual capacity, he is deeply involved with undergraduate and postgraduate education of local and overseas orthopaedic surgeons, and engineering students from the University of Sydney and NSW.

Ron has travelled widely and lectured in the USA, China, India and the Middle East. He is a member of the Australian Orthopaedic Association, and the Australian Hip and Knee Arthritis Surgical Society.

In 2005, Ron was recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division for his “service to health through technological development of a hip replacement prosthesis”.[1]

Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Sekel, Ronald. Faculty of Medicine Online Museum and Archive, University of Sydney.

An alternate version appears in: Mellor, L. 150 Years, 150 Firsts: The People of the Faculty of Medicine (2006) Sydney, Sydney University Press.