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Chicago Center for Orthopedics director wins science award

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Henry Finn, M.D., considers his daughter Lauren a “kindred spirit.” She helped him build his home workshop, designs his business cards and even now—at 22 years old—enjoys hanging out with her dad.

“We’re connected that way. She’s like the female version of me,” Dr. Finn says. “She feels and knows how I feel.”

A letter from Lauren hangs in a frame in Dr. Finn’s office—a letter that brought him to tears when Lauren read it to him. She wrote it to nominate him for the Wilkes University Health Sciences Distinguished Services Award from Dr. Finn’s alma mater. Instituted in 2005, the award recognizes graduates every five years for being pioneers in their field and thus bringing honor to Wilkes.

And Dr. Finn won. In early October, he received a call at work notifying him of the award. “You did it!” Dr. Finn said to Lauren at home later, after finding out from the school that she had nominated him.

Lauren printed a copy and read it to him. “As the daughter of Dr. Henry A. Finn, I feel like not only do I have the special right to brag about my father but I also have the obligation to honor him,” Lauren wrote. “My dad deserves this award because he is extremely driven; he is never satisfied with the status quo.”

Tears gathered at the corners of Dr. Finn’s eyes as she spoke.

Lauren’s letter went on: “He quickly redefined the field of orthopedics when he invented the Finn Knee, a knee replacement prosthesis that allowed him to do surgeries that were impossible beforehand…. Think about this: he turned a fused knee, a solid bone, into a joint!”

Dr. Finn said he was “overwhelmed. In her busy life, the fact that she took the time.” Yet the thing that stood out to him the most were the words, “there’s nothing he can’t fix.”

That sentiment went back to Lauren’s childhood, when Dr. Finn would come home to find a toy or doll on the stairway that required fixing.

“When others say it can’t be done, my dad does it,” Lauren wrote in her nomination letter.

“That came off the page as a beacon to me. That’s been my life,” Dr. Finn says.

Dr. Finn could not attend his university’s award ceremony in Pennsylvania because of scheduling conflicts. Instead, the university offered to send a representative to Weiss, and the hospital organized a ceremony in the Lakefront Medical Center lobby. The event took place Nov. 19.

Dr. Henry Finn receives an award

Dr. Henry Finn won an award from his alma mater after his daughter
Lauren nominated him.

Two hundred and fifty people attended the ceremony—patients, colleagues, friends and family of Dr. Finn. Dane Miller, Ph.D. and founder of the company that manufactures Dr. Finn’s trademark knee replacements, as well as Michael Simon, M.D., chief of orthopedics at the University of Chicago, both attended. There was food, an open bar and speeches from Dr. Finn and some of his closest friends.

Dr. Finn had memorized his thank you speech, bringing tears to attendees’ eyes as he explained his constant struggle since age 16 to attain “the next level” in education, career and life.

During his first year in a special accelerated program at Wilkes, Dr. Finn said he spent all night week after week trying to prove himself after years of disinterest and poor grades in school. “I was teaching myself algebra so I could do engineering calculus. I knew I had potential, but I had barely been getting through school because I’d been uninterested.”

Yet, he did prove himself, and graduated from Wilkes at the top of his class. “That opened up a world that I wouldn’t have known existed,” he says. “I met my wife there, and that ended up in my daughters Lauren and Caitlin. Even though I didn’t sleep a minute and worked 20 hour days, those years were the happiest years of my life.”

Something in Dr. Finn had clicked. He had found a passion—fixing people. He went on to invent several types of new and specialized hip and knee replacements to salvage unsolvable problems, has performed thousands of surgeries and leads the Chicago Center for Orthopedics at Weiss.

“It all goes back to Wilkes,” he says.

Because Dr. Finn and daughter Lauren watch the show Cake Boss together, Lauren had a special cake made for the event, featuring her dad the surgeon in the operating room, surrounded by the talented team of nurses, anesthesiologists and residents that support him.

The night and the award proved a significant and cherished milestone in Dr. Finn’s life. However, he says, “The love and admiration of your daughter is more important than any award you could get, that feeling of pride and love.”

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