A legendary mentor inspired his career choice
An athlete who always loved working with his hands, Dr. Torino was fortunate to learn more about the field through a mentor. Victor Frankel, MD, PhD, Chairman Emeritus at Hospital for Joint Diseases (now NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital) and considered by many to be the father of orthopedic biomechanics, lived around the corner from his grandparents in Monterey Beach, New Jersey. “He was larger than life to me as a child. I was lucky enough to discuss my interest in orthopedics with him. Frankel had introduced innovative techniques for leg deformity. His work with complex and disadvantaged patients inspired me,” says Dr. Torino. This experience, along with shadowing other orthopedic surgeons in his community, solidified his career direction. “I knew I wanted to do adult reconstruction. I wanted to help people who have functionally-limiting pain and provide them with reliable solutions to allow them to live more productive lives.”
After completing a Biomedical Sciences Certificate at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Torino was willing to make the sacrifices that were necessary to become a successful medical student at RUSM. “Traveling 2000 miles to a remote island away from your family isn’t easy,” says Dr. Torino. “But I did everything I could to succeed. I studied relentlessly, worked hard during basic sciences and clinical rotations and this effort resulted in graduating with honors. My relationships became stronger while at RUSM and I found new extended family with my classmates. My wife was incredibly supportive to me throughout my medical school education. I wouldn’t have made it without her.”
Training with renowned experts
During his clinical rotations at Memorial Hospital in Miramar, Florida, Cleveland Clinic Florida, and in New York at NYU Langone Hospital, Lenox Hill Hospital, and New York Methodist Hospital, he received experience in surgical sub-specialties that resulted in patients returning to fully functioning lives. “I wanted to have the best training I possibly could and work with world-renowned experts in the field,” says Dr. Torino. “I was able to establish a relationship with Joseph Zuckerman, MD, chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at NYU Langone which helped shape my career. During my sub-internship at NYU, he provided a wealth of valuable advice.” Dr. Zuckerman mentored him and wrote a letter of recommendation in support of his residency application.
“I’m also thankful for the mentorship provided by RUSM alumni who practice orthopedic medicine,” says Dr. Torino, including Drs. Filippo Chillemi, ‘09, Gabriel Petruccelli, ‘06, and Jon Robinson, ‘11. Dr. Chillemi completed the world-renowned American Sports Medicine Institute fellowship and is now practicing at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center/Specialty Orthopedics Surgery Center. Dr. Petrucelli is the section chair of the Department of Orthopedics at Adventist Healthcare Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville, Maryland. Dr. Robinson completed the prestigious Washington University Joint Preservation, Resurfacing and Replacement Fellowship and now practices at BronxCare Health System in New York. “I appreciate the connections with alumni colleagues that I established through my education at RUSM. I learned so much about the field from them and am still attempting to emulate their success.”
Perseverance helped him match for residency
Dr. Torino is currently a Chief Resident at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania and will soon begin a fellowship at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh for hip and knee replacement for the 2022-2023 year. Recalling his journey to residency, Dr. Torino explains, “Orthopedic Surgery is extremely competitive, I won’t sugarcoat it. The only way you’ll fail is if you quit. You need to be determined and have the right attitude. Knowing I might not get to do what I always wanted to do gave me the fire to persevere.”
After graduating from RUSM in 2014, prior to starting his Preliminary General Surgery Residency at University of Pennsylvania, he became a paid research fellow at the McKay Research Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, leading to several published research projects. “Working as a general surgery resident, taking care of complex, sick patients made me a better doctor and surgeon,” says Dr. Torino. I received additional mentorship that was instrumental in helping me to match for residency based on my performance. You must set yourself apart from the competition and develop relationships that will help you grow. I knew nothing would get handed to me.”
Looking to mentors while training others
While the main hospital is located in a small, rural location far from metropolitan areas, Geisinger Health System is a 13-hospital healthcare system with two Level 1 trauma centers and provides tertiary care to an area spanning hundreds of miles from Pittsburgh, covering upstate NY and the Philadelphia area. The Musculoskeletal Institute at Geisinger encompasses a multispecialty approach, and includes a research institute and multiple departments, such as Podiatry, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine. The Musculoskeletal Institute and Department of Orthopedic Surgery are recognized as a Center of Excellence for both spine and joint replacement.
Dr. Torino feels privileged to work with leaders in the field. “Many have left an indelible mark on me along the way. There’s nothing more satisfying than training under talented people who really care for patients. I hope I can provide that same level of training and mentorship to the junior residents and possibly in the future as an attending surgeon.” His match at Geisinger is also memorable for other reasons. During his interview, his wife’s water broke, and shortly after, she gave birth to their daughter.
Dr. Torino’s mentors at Geisinger continue to advise him and mold his career. Michael Suk, MD, JD, MPH, MBA, the chair of Geisinger’s Musculoskeletal Research Institute and professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, influenced Dr. Torino to pursue adult reconstruction and joint replacement. “I would run through a brick wall for him and the doctors at Allegheny Hospital. It’s gratifying to know I’ll be a practicing hip and knee surgeon doing joint replacement in my fellowship there. Allegheny feels like a family. Combined with the fascinating aspects of joint replacement including biomechanics, technology, materials—I really could not imagine a better field to go into,” says Dr. Torino.
Most of all, he’s happy to provide a service that helps people get back to their lives. “I’m excited to provide a viable solution for people. People go from not being able to walk, to being able to play with their grandkids and function without pain. It makes all the hard work pay off.”