Orthopedic Surgeon Rubs Shoulders with Pros and Amateurs

November 5, 2014
Ed Rabinowitz

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. And in the case of Joshua Dines, MD, and his father, David Dines, MD, the apple fell about as close to the tree as you can get.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And in the case of Joshua Dines, MD, and his father, David Dines, MD, the apple fell about as close to the tree as you can get. That’s because Joshua Dines, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, and his father practice together at their office in Uniondale, Long Island.

“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s working out well,” says Dines of practicing with his father. “[Orthopedics] is something my father still loves to this day. So I think I always had a positive exposure to the field.”

A love for sports

Dines and his father practice sports medicine. But Dines, who played on the golf team while attending Dartmouth and remains an avid sportsman, says he kept an open mind about choosing a career while in college. He thought about law school, as well as working in the financial field. And even after choosing medicine, he didn’t automatically gravitate toward orthopedic surgery.

“I tried to keep an open mind,” Dines explains. “But I think the same thing that probably drew my father into the field, drew me to the field. And it has worked out well.”

That’s putting it mildly. Dines is a team physician for multiple professional teams. He is an assistant team doctor for the New York Mets and a consultant for the Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as a team orthopedist for the Long Island Ducks minor league baseball team. He also served as the doctor for the U.S. Davis Cup tennis team. His work enabled him to become one of the youngest members of the prestigious American Shoulder and Elbow Society.

“I’ve built some great relationships with some of the most famous tennis players of our era,” says Dines, listing Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Jim Courier in that group. “Being around great athletes, people who are the best at what they do, it’s inspiring.”

Dines himself never experienced a serious injury during athletic competition, but between the athletes his father treated and the fellow athletes he played with, he’s seen his share. In the end, he believes that association has helped him become a better doctor.

“It’s very easy to lose sight of things,” he explains. “Patients tend to become the disease. You associate a patient with an ACL tear, which is impersonal. But if you’ve grown up playing sports, and you’ve seen how it affected those who couldn’t play and were sitting on the bench, I think it allows you to empathize a bit more.”

Making it better

Helping injured athletes recover is only part of what Dines does. He has been named chief medical officer of Donnay, Inc. The focus of the company is to develop safer tennis racquets to potentially decrease the amount of shoulder and elbow problems seen among recreational players. The initiative, Dines says, is near and dear to his heart.

“I see a ton of athletes with tennis elbow and shoulder problems,” Dines says. “I get asked to represent or get involved in things all the time. I try to be pretty picky, and this is one product that mechanical testing has shown is much safer.”

Dines’ and the company’s focus is the non-professional tennis player; the 40- or 50-year-old who has been playing tennis his or her entire life, and is not about to change the way they swing their racquet.

“But if you can give them a safer piece of equipment, they’ll make a smart decision.”

In related work, Dines is very active in research with a focus on rotator cuff tendon healing and shoulder replacement. His novel research on biologics to enhance tendon healing has resulted in national awards. Two of his current research projects are funded by competitive grants.

Making information available

Dines says he’s “old for the younger generation,” but still young enough to recognize the importance of social media as a viable means of communication. Factions within the medical community realized it too.

“But not a lot of doctors necessarily had the interest, or if they did have the interest, they didn’t have the credibility or reputation to get involved,” Dines says. “I was lucky enough to be busy as a surgeon and build my reputation, while still being in touch from a social media perspective to see where that trend was going.”

Subsequently, Dines was named social media editor for The Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery, the first position of its kind for an orthopedic journal. His goal was to make the journal more relevant in the social media space while enhancing the educational experience of its subscribers.

“Social media is a great way, particularly in this age of kind of an overabundance of information, to really help get what’s important to you out to other people,” he explains.

Championing the adage “an informed patient is the best patient,” Dines also took on the role of chief medical officer at SportsMD.com to help make it the most trusted website for sports medicine information. Under his guidance, the website has grown to more than 150,000 visitors monthly.

Helping people

While Dines’ work with high-profile athletes receives much attention, he’s quick to point out that his career is centered on helping people. It doesn’t matter if it’s the weekend warrior swinging a tennis racquet, or playing the piano, or simply getting dressed in the morning and brushing one’s teeth.

“People have such bad shoulder pain they can’t even do things as simple as that.”

Helping people, and seeing their appreciation when they’re able to get back to doing what they like to do, or what they haven’t been able to do for a long time, is the most rewarding aspect of Dines’ career. Orthopedic surgery, he says, has opened that door, and others as well.

“Being at the Hospital for Special Surgery, being academic and doing a lot of research, has provided opportunities to get involved in other ventures,” Dines says. “And if you take advantage of them, I think you can really make a bigger difference on a wider scale.”