PHALEN, GEORGE S. (2 Dec. 1911-14 Apr. 1998) was a CLEVELAND CLINIC physician when he identified carpal tunnel syndrome. Born in Peoria, Il., he graduated from Bradley University in 1932. He earned a master's degree in anatomy and a medical degree at Northwestern University in 1937. Dr. Phalen served a three year residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., before he entered the Army in 1942. He was a lieutenant colonel and chief of the orthopedic section at O'Reilly General Hospital in Springfield, Mo., one of seven of the Army Hand Centers in the country. For the last six months of the war, he was chief of the hand service at William Beaumont General Hospital in El. Paso, Texas, for six months. Following WORLD WAR II, Dr. Phalen established his practice of orthopedic hand surgery at the Cleveland Clinic and taught at the Western Reserve University School of Medicine. After 24 years, he moved to Texas and practiced at the Dallas Medical and Surgery Clinic from 1970 until he retired in 1980.
While at the Clinic, Dr. Phalen announced the diagnostic sign for carpal tunnel syndrome at a 1948 meeting of the American Surgery for the Hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful disorder that afflicts workers whose jobs include repetitive wrist movements. The diagnostic sign is now known as the "Phalen Sign." Earlier, Dr. Phalen helped found the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. He assisted organizing its first meeting in 1946 and became its president in the 1960s. He was also the president of the Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons in 1965. In 1969, Dr. Phalen became the chair of the orthopedic section of the American Medical Association. In 1970, Bradley University presented him with the Distinguished Alumnus Award.
After divorcing his first wife, Marion Phalen, Dr. Phalen married Margaret Barnes. He had two children with Margaret, George C. and John, and two step children, Sue Wills and Bob Barnes. His remains are in the mausoleum at Sparkman Hill Cemetery in Dallas, Texas.