Dr. Anthony DePalma was born in Philadelphia in 1904, the son of immigrants from Alberona province of Foggia, Italy. He attended the University of Maryland for his premedical education, then Jefferson Medical College, from which he graduated in 1929. He then served a two-year internship at Philadelphia General Hospital. In 1931, he obtained a position as assistant surgeon at the Coaldale State Hospital, in Coaldale, Pennsylvania, a mining town. He became attracted to orthopaedics and in the autumn of 1932, he was appointed as a preceptor at the New Jersey Orthopaedic Hospital, an extension of the New York Orthopaedic Hospital. In 1939, he acquired Board certification and was appointed to the NJOH staff.
Dr. DePalma volunteered for military service in 1942 and served first at the Parris Island Naval Hospital in South Carolina, then on USS Rixey, a hospital ship. In addition to evacuating casualties to New Zealand, his ship was involved in the Guam, Leyte, and Okinawa.
In 1945, Dr. DePalma was assigned to the Naval Hospital in Philadelphia. After he was discharged from the service, he joined the staff of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Jefferson, where he remained the rest of his career. He succeeded James Martin as Chair in 1950, a position he held until 1970 when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 65. He closed his practice and moved briefly to Pompano Beach, Florida, but the lure of academia proved too powerful, and in January 1971, he accepted the offer to develop a Division of Orthopaedics at the New Jersey College of Medicine and became their Chair. He committed to a five-year period, and then again moved to Pompano Beach, only to take the Florida State Boards and open a private practice in 1977. He continued that practice until 1983 at the age of nearly 79.
Dr. DePalma was the first Editor-in-Chief of Clinical Orthopaedics & Related Research, a major orthopaedic journal, from 1953 to 1966. He wrote several medical textbooks that are considered standards. Jefferson has an auditorium named after him and a painting of him in a lecture hall. He was the father of movie director Brian De Palma.