ON A SUMMER NIGHT in 1923, Julia Meyer, then eight years old and living in the Philippines, fell from the top branches of an acacia tree and broke her leg.
The injury caused her to contract osteomyelitis, a persistent and potentially life-threatening infection of the bone. As a result, she spent the remainder of that summer in a Philippine hospital.
If I hadnt fallen out of the tree, I would have traveled with my family to Peking and been on a Shanghai-to-Peking Express that was attacked by bandits. So I always thought it was a fair exchange, she says.
Meyers misfortune as a child now has another silver lining. Her resultant lifelong interest in seeing osteomyelitis eradicated recently prompted her to create the Vincent S. and Julia Meyer Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery through a $1.2 million charitable lead trust.
Meyer, 82, was trained as a microbiologist and was in medical school when she met her husband, Vincent Meyer, who graduated from Stanford in 1939 with an M.D.
I would have liked to have done research on osteomyelitis, but after I
married my life took a different direction, she says. The desire to fight the disease never left, however, so Meyer recently studied medical journals and ran computer searches to learn who was most active in research to eliminate it.
That search led her to USC and to Michael Patzakis, pro-
fessor and chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, whose cutting-edge approach to attacking the diseases combines genetic and molecular engineering.
Patzakis, who is the first holder of the Meyer chair, says he feels honored to fill the position, adding that the trust will fund a molecular biologist who will perform basic research.
Im extremely grateful to Mrs. Meyer for her generosity, kindness and warmth. Shes had this disease her entire life and she wants to do something to help others.
OSTEOMYELITIS CAN LEAD to severe complications and is potentially limb- and life-threatening. The infection destroys bone tissue and interrupts the blood supply to the infected bone, which makes it hard to treat with antibiotics alone.
Fortunately, with modern techniques and treatments, were able to salvage extremities and restore function, Patzakis says. We have a success rate of approximately 97 percent in arresting the infection.
Meyer is pleased to be able to help fight a disease that has shadowed her throughout her life. It fulfills a need that I have felt in my life to be able to make this kind of contribution, she says, and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction.