2009 Distinguished achievement award: Steven Schopler

// Mechanical Engineering

Tags: alumni, Engineers' Day, ME E-Day, Steven Schopler

Share this story:

Steven A. Schopler
Orthopedic Surgeon and Physician
Southern California orthopedic Institute
BSME ’76
Van Nuys, California

Steven A. Schopler has come a long way from his days biking around UW-Madison, wearing a backpack bulging with human femurs implanted with hip prostheses. As a renowned reconstructive spinal surgeon in southern California, his work continually bridges the orthopedic and engineering fields.

Schopler’s engineering interests began early. He frequently toured Midwest factories and engineering facilities with his father, who was a chemical engineer and professor. His father’s company manufactured biomedical devices, and his work inspired Schopler to pursue a career that fused engineering with medicine.

Schopler grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, next door to the late UW-Madison Kaiser Chair of Mechanical Engineering Ali Seireg, who became a mentor to Schopler. He followed Seireg to UW-Madison, where he worked on Seireg’s famous “walking-machine” for paraplegics. The machine was exhibited at the Seattle World’s Fair and the History of Medicine and Science Museum in London.

In 1976, Schopler obtained his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, graduating with honors. He stayed at UW-Madison for medical school, where he honed his interest in orthopedic surgery and earned his medical degree in 1980.

Schopler then migrated west to complete a residency at the University of California, Los Angeles Department of Orthopedics, where he combined his biomechanics and orthopedic biology studies and discovered his interest in pediatric orthopedics. After his residency, Schopler was a fellow in pediatric orthopedics at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

He returned to Van Nuys, California, and joined the Southern California Orthopedic Institute (SCOI) in 1991, where he is now a senior partner. He is also a clinical instructor in orthopedics at the University of Southern California School of Medicine and past chair of the orthopedic surgery department at Valley Presbyterian Hospital, in addition to appointments at multiple California hospitals.

Schopler specializes in spinal surgery, and he has additional expertise in pediatric orthopedics and scoliosis. He relies on his engineering and medical training to develop new techniques and equipment. He is the author of numerous articles and lectures internationally on pediatric orthopedic topics and conditions. His work has helped turn the private-practice SCOI into the equivalent of a university orthopedic department.

“Knowledge of biomechanics and engineering has served me well in the evolving fields of orthopedics and spinal surgery”, Schopler says. “My friends and UW-Madison mentors provided a foundation I am proud of.”

In his spare time, Schopler enjoys skiing, visiting the beach and other outdoor activities with his wife, Robin, and two daughters, Lisa and Ellen. Schopler hails from a family of Badgers — Robin, his parents and Robin’s parents are all UW-Madison alumni, and Ellen will join them when she graduates in 2010.