About Lewis G. Zirkle, Jr., M.D., Founder of SIGN (Surgical Implant Generation Network)
Lewis G. Zirkle, Jr., is a graduate of Duke University, an Orthopaedic Surgeon in Richland, Washington, and the founder of SIGN (Surgical Implant Generation Network) a non-profit organization created to manufacture orthopaedic implants required to heal severe fractures in third world countries.
Dr. Zirkle’s journey to the Third World began in 1968, when he was drafted and then assigned to the 93rd Evacuation Hospital in South Vietnam. During his service in Southeast Asia, Dr. Zirkle treated traumatic injuries of U.S. servicemen and women. He also saw the suffering of the Vietnamese civilian population, and added more hours to each long day to treat them.
When Dr. Zirkle returned home, his desire to share his expertise to the unfortunate victims of war, accidents, and disease intensified. In 1971, he made his first trip to Indonesia for a group of American surgeons known as Orthopedics Overseas. His travels during the next several years took him to many countries throughout the world.
In 1990, Dr. Zirkle’s life changed dramatically after he received a telephone call from a former South Vietnamese soldier. The two men spoke and shared their experiences from the Vietnam conflict. Dr. Zirkle learned that Vietnam was still crippled by the war, and, in fact, things were getting worse. Driven by his memories of the suffering he had witnessed while serving his country, Dr. Zirkle packed two duffel bags with medical supplies and flew to Southeast Asia.
The trip that began with angst and suspicion ended with Dr. Zirkle performing 32 successful surgeries and giving daily lectures to Vietnamese physicians. While in Vietnam, Dr. Zirkle realized that sharing his knowledge was important, but due to the severity of fractures in undeveloped countries, implants were often required for patients or their bones would not heal and amputation would be necessary. A more challenging issue revolved around developing a practical implant device that did not require sophisticated imagining equipment for surgery.
In 1999, Dr. Zirkle founded SIGN (Surgical Implant Generation Network), based in Richland, for the purpose of manufacturing implants could be used without imagining equipment to locate the holes in the nail for placing the support screws.
Today, SIGN manufactures 10,000 implants a year to be used in nearly 100 SIGN Projects located throughout the world. The SIGN Implant Kit is provided no charge to participating hospitals and Dr. Zirkle and SIGN Surgical Teams travel the world teaching their special technique of healing fractures. SIGN’s mission statement is “Creating Equality of Fracture Care Throughout the World.”