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Alan Yasko, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Dies

Outgoing doctor loved to mentor students, residents and young surgeons

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August 24, 2010 | by Marla Paul

CHICAGO --- Alan Yasko, M.D., 51, vice chairman of fiscal affairs and research in the department of orthopaedic surgery at Northwestern Medicine, unexpectedly passed away Aug. 19 of a pulmonary embolism. He had been attending a scientific congress in Cancun, Mexico, where he was to deliver an educational presentation.

An international leader in the field of orthopaedic oncology, Dr. Yasko joined Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University in 2006. During his tenure at the medical school, Dr. Yasko was instrumental in re-engineering the orthopaedics residency program. Dr. Yasko also held several administrative appointments at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation.

Colleagues remember Dr. Yasko as an outstanding scientist, a devoted educator and a caring physician.

“Alan had an outgoing personality and loved to interact with others,” said Andrew D. Bunta, M.D., vice chairman of the department of orthopaedic surgery. “He enjoyed talking about his many interests with colleagues, friends and, especially, his family. One of his greatest interests and talents involved nurturing students and residents while mentoring young orthopaedic surgeons whose careers he hoped to influence by example. He was a great planner and believed in the importance of building a culture of change over time in the organizations where he worked.”

Michael Schafer, M.D., Edwin Warner Ryerson Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, first got to know Dr. Yasko during weekly phone conversations while recruiting him for Feinberg. He found out Dr. Yasko “was devoted to his family as all of our discussions had a family-first focus—from schools to attend, to the recreational activities available.” 

“He was passionate about his practice of medicine and teaching,” Schafer said. “It was important to him to have an influence on the lives of the residents, which I know he did. I will always remember him for his outgoing personality and concern for others. He will be missed by his patients, colleagues, and most of all, his family.”

Before joining Feinberg, Dr. Yasko spent 15 years at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, with ten of those years as chief of orthopaedic oncology. He also was as a professor of orthopaedics, surgery, and pediatrics while there. Additionally, he was a professor of orthopaedic surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and an adjunct associate professor at Rice University.

Dr. Yasko completed his residency training at Case Western Reserve University and fellowships in musculoskeletal oncology and metabolic bone disease at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He received his undergraduate degree from Wright State University, his Doctor of Medicine degree from Northwestern, and an MBA from Rice University in Houston.

Over the years, Dr. Yasko also served in numerous roles for the Musculoskeletal Tumor Society and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Bone Panel. He was elected to the American Orthopaedic Association in 2003. In addition, his peers recognized his many accomplishments by his election to and inclusion in Best Doctors in America and America’s Top Doctors for Cancer since 2004.

Dr. Yasko is survived by his wife, Laura, and their four children, Jason, Nathan, Aaron and Alexandra. A visitation is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 26 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Wenban Funeral Home, 320 E. Vine Ave. Lake Forest. A celebratory mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 27 at the Church of St. Mary, 175 E. Illinois Rd., Lake Forest.