Dr. Richard J. Hawkins Receives Order of the Palmetto

State of South Carolina Honors Achievements of Renowned Orthopaedic Surgeon

At his retirement celebration this afternoon, Dr. Richard J. Hawkins, founder of the Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, was awarded the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor presented by the Governor of South Carolina. This distinguished award recognizes a person’s lifetime achievements and contributions to the state.

“Dr. Hawkins has been perhaps the most influential surgeon of our time,” said J.T. Tokish, M.D., Program Director of the Greenville Health System/Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas Sports Medicine Fellowship. “He has shaped the lives of more than 200 fellows around with world with a passionate curiosity; a dedication to doing the right thing, the right way; and a fierce commitment to family. His legacy will be celebrated and retaught for generations by devoted students who were lucky enough to call him a teacher, friend and coach.”

For more than 12 years, Dr. Hawkins’ contributions have directly and indirectly impacted the healthcare economy in South Carolina. He founded the Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas in 2004, bringing the successful Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Vail, Colorado to the Upstate. What started as a three-surgeon practice in 2004 has grown to a clinic of 27 surgeons operating on five campuses of the Greenville Health System. During Dr. Hawkins’ career in the Upstate, he has:

  • Established the Hawkins Foundation, a non-profit organization investing $14 million to-date into orthopaedic research and education, and, along with Dr. J.T. Tokish, established the first Steadman Hawkins International Fellowship Program at Greenville Health System;
  • Trained 59 orthopaedic surgeons as Program Director of the Steadman Hawkins Sports Medicine Fellowship program, of which six surgeons are practicing in South Carolina today;
  • Mentored undergraduate students serving as Hawkins Foundation interns, resulting in 16 interns going on to attend medical school or practice medicine;
  • Secured a $5 million donation and a subsequent $5 million investment from the State of South Carolina to established the South Carolina SmartState Center for Effectiveness Research in Orthopaedics within the University of South Carolina; Dr. Hawkins currently serves as Board Chairman of this organization.

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  • Led a $250,000 donation on behalf of the Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas to the GHS Medex Academy, an effort to create interest in pursuing careers in healthcare among young people; and
  • Served as team doctor for the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind pro bono.

Over the course of his 40-year career, Dr. Hawkins has been on the forefront of orthopaedic medicine locally, nationally and internationally. He graduated from the University of Western Ontario where he later became Professor of Orthopaedics and the Director of the Residency Program. He is fellowship-trained, focusing mainly on the knee, shoulder and spine, and was an ABC Traveling Fellow to Great Britain in 1979. Dr. Hawkins is a pillar in orthopaedic education, where his accolades include giving more than 800 presentations on national and international stages, publishing nine textbooks, and training more than 200 fellows. He is a dedicated to basic and clinical research, primarily focusing on shoulder-related efforts, and is currently working with ASES and AAOS to establish a national scoring system for shoulder outcomes. He is first and foremost a respected practicing surgeon, working with thousands of patients from all walks of life, as well as high school, professional and Olympian athletes.

Dr. Hawkins has been honored with multiple awards for his contributions, including the AOSSM George D. Rovere Award in 2013 and the AOSSM Robert E. Leach Sports Medicine Leadership Award in 2015, recognizing his contributions to sports medicine; the Clemson University Samuel F. Hubert Award, recognizing contributions to their Bioengineering Department; and now, the Order of the Palmetto. Yet through the years, Dr. Hawkins maintains his proudest accomplishment is his three children with his wife Susan, and their five grandchildren.

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