Obituary: Surgeon Frank J. Boutin Sr. remembered as ‘father of orthopedics’ in Sacramento

Frank J. Boutin Sr., a surgeon known to many of his colleagues as the “father of orthopedics” in Sacramento, died Saturday at age 93.

“He was the person you would go to for advice and direction,” said Dr. Robert Szabo, who recalled his introduction to Dr. Boutin when Szabo arrived in Sacramento in 1983 as a professor of orthopedics at UC Davis.

Dr. David Coward described Dr. Boutin as one of the most respected orthopedic surgeons in the community.

“He was really my mentor,” Coward said, noting that the two practiced together until Dr. Boutin was 85. “He brought me into his practice and helped steer me in the right direction.”

Steve Boutin said his father knew from the time he was 5 years old that he wanted to be a doctor, a profession he practiced for 60 years, performing more than 35,000 surgeries.

He was an “old school” physician who made house calls and spent whatever time was needed with his patients to make sure they received proper treatment. Patients often had to spend a while in the waiting room, but once they were with Dr. Boutin, “he had this laser focus on you and you alone,” recalled his son.

Dr. Boutin was born June 9, 1920 in Spokane, Wash. He earned his undergraduate degree from Stanford University in 1942, enlisted in the Army and then enrolled in Stanford Medical School.

He served at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he treated soldiers wounded during World War II. Many were amputees, and Dr. Boutin sought to help them deal with the psychological as well as the physical wounds, assuring them that with prostheses they could have an active life, Steve Boutin said.

After leaving the Army, Dr. Boutin and his family returned to the Bay Area, where he served as chief resident at Stanford University Hospital and San Francisco General Hospital.

In 1953, the family moved to Woodland after Dr. Boutin was recruited as the first orthopedic surgeon at the Woodland Clinic. The clinic was known up and down the West Coast, said Steve Boutin, with patients coming from as far away as southern Oregon to receive treatment.

Dr. Boutin rode a bicycle to work and made house calls on his way home from the hospital. Steve Boutin and his five siblings often found themselves waiting in the car on Sundays while their father stopped to make house calls en route from church.

“We never left town on Friday night because that was football night,” Steve Boutin said, and his father wanted to be available in case a player was injured.

In 1961, Dr. Boutin moved his family to Sacramento, where he practiced until 1990. Even after retirement, he continued to assist fellow surgeons in the operating room.

He held numerous positions over the years, including chief orthopedic consultant at Cowell Student Health Center at UC Davis from 1953 to 1987 and clinical associate professor of orthopedic surgery at UC Davis Medical School. He also was chairman of the Department of Surgery at Mercy General Hospital and president of the Sacramento Valley Chapter of the Western Orthopedic Association.

Dr. Boutin was a longtime member of the Sacramento Downtown Rotary Club, which named him a Paul Harris Fellow in 1996 in recognition of his humanitarian contributions. Steve Boutin recalled that his father didn’t know he was the honoree and family members sneaked in to the awards ceremony, ready to surprise him. But when his name was announced, Dr. Boutin failed to come forward.

“Dad had snuck out because he had a patient that he was very concerned about,” Steve Boutin said. “He had snuck out and gone to the hospital to check on the patient. That was so typical of him.”

Dr. Boutin is survived by his wife of 69 years, Charlotte “Tink” Boutin; daughter, Sue Boutin Atkinson of Sacramento; five sons, Steve and Robert, both of Davis, Peter of Hillsborough, Don of Poway, and Frank Jr. of Sacramento; 15 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

A service for Dr. Boutin will be held at 11 a.m. today at Sacred Heart Church, 1040 39th St., Sacramento.