Dr. Clyde Henderson served Cincinnatians 32 years as an orthopaedic surgeon. Photo provided
Dr. Clyde Henderson, who retired April 2, at age 66 as an orthopaedic surgeon in Cincinnati, says that when he looks back on his 35-year career he is grateful for all the people who helped him along the way.
“No one does anything on our own. I was blessed with loving parents and older brothers and sisters as a child, as well as a very supportive, hardworking wife throughout my adult years. There were teachers, people in the community of East Walnut Hills, and other physicians who kept me on the straight and narrow path and encouraged me,’’ he said.
Outside of his family he gives special recognition to Dr. Paul Hough, the first Black appointed to the Cincinnati Board of Health, and also to his elementary school sixth-grade teacher Rufus Barfield at Hoffman Elementary School. Henderson is a 1969 graduate of Walnut Hills High School.
His family had moved to Cincinnati from his native Greenville, South Carolina, when he was 3 years old.
The practice of medicine intrigued Henderson about the time he was 7 years old, he said. It was sparked when Dr. Paul Hough treated him and his father for pneumonia at his office at Gilbert and Lincoln avenues in Walnut Hills. “He showed an interest in me and became my mentor when I was in elementary through high school by encouraging me to go into medicine.’’
The value of getting an education was told and shown by Henderson’s father who insisted on his sons doing summer work for the small general contracting business that he owned. “While shoveling hot asphalt in the Cincinnati August heat my father would say, “You can do this type of work or stay in school.’’ These encouragements helped offset some discouragement. For example, he recalls being denigrated and told by a local store owner “you will never be a doctor.’’
Although convinced in high school of the need for higher education, Henderson looked at how much time and money it would take to finish medical school, he had to reconsider that career path. “My family did not have the financial resources, but encouraged me, or better said, insisted that I become the first of my family to complete college.’’
He said he was good at math and science, with test scores to prove it. With the help of his high school guidance counselor, he chose to pursue engineering studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, graduating in 1973 with a degree in material science engineering.
While in engineering school, he served two summers as a junior engineer with a number of professionals in the field.
“I enjoyed engineering from a scientific standpoint, but I did not see myself as having the influence and impact I wanted to have on my community without a graduate degree. I therefore reasoned that I may as well pursue the life work that I really desired.”
Financial challenges also came with transitioning to medical school, for student Henderson was now married with an infant child. However, the U.S. Army was offering a program through which it would fund medical school expenses in exchange for an equivalent number of years of military service after graduation. Henderson said he thought the program would be a good way to serve his country in exchange for a medical school scholarship.
He graduated from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in 1977, interned a year at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, and then underwent an addition 4-year residency training program in orthopaedic surgery.
He was a member of the US Army Reserve Medical Corps while in medical school and during his residency. He then went on active duty as an orthopaedic surgeon at Gen. Leonard Wood Community Hospital at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, from 1982 to 1985 to fulfill his scholarship requirements. He became chief of orthopedics at the hospital, and completed his active duty there as a major, promotable.
Returning to Cincinnati, Henderson entered into private practice. His mentor, Dr. Hough, and other primary care physicians sent him patients right away. “I was blessed to have them in my corner. I knew a lot of the medical pioneers of our community as well as the new doctors in town with whom I trained,’’ he said.
Henderson said the most trying time during his years in private practice was when Anthem Health Insurance Co. pared down the orthopaedic panel of physicians locally, a move that he said was unfair to patients. Dr. Thomas E. Shockley and Henderson were the only two Black adult orthopaedic surgeons in town, and Anthem was dropping them. However, then Cincinnati Vice Mayor Minette Cooper and the Cincinnati Medical Association went to bat for them and their patients to have that situation reversed. Since Henderson retired, Dr. Thomas Shockley Jr. and Dr. Mark Galloway are the remaining local Black adult orthopedic surgeons.
Henderson’s professional highlights include service as president of Cincinnati Medical Association and as president of Tristate Orthopaedic Treatment Center, which was acquired by Tri-Health approximately four years ago. He also enjoys giving motivational talks to students about going to college and medical school, and mentoring of youth.
His resume is filled with professional listings of awards, publications and presentations.
He is involved in the health ministry and community outreach at his church, Southern Baptist Church in Avondale. He is a member of the Alumni Board at Walnut Hills High School. He is a supporter of the Urban League of Southwestern Ohio and the Cincinnati NAACP and a holds a lifetime membership in Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.
Henderson’s advice to young people is to study hard, including subjects they do not like, and to not be discouraged by people who say they cannot do something. Prepare to handle obstacles. Believe in yourself, your faith, your family, and friends.
His wife of 46 years, Janis, is a retired elementary teacher. Their daughter, Frances, is an associate professor of women’s studies and political science at Maryville College in Tennessee. Their son, Clyde II, is an FM radio station personality and music director in Toledo. They have five grandchildren.
Henderson has played golf in every state. He looks forward to spending time with his wife, grandchildren, and church during his retirement, as well as playing more golf. He also plans on participating in math and science tutoring and participating in medical missions here and abroad.