Dr. Gene Dorio | Teammanship

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Nothing could have prepared me better for my career and life than playing team sports growing up. 

It’s hard to imagine someone now in their 70s pitching a fastball 100 mph, bench pressing almost 400 pounds, and running the 100-yard dash in 9.8 seconds. These skills allowed me to play baseball until I was 26 and then move on to medical school.

Professional athletes pride themselves on their speed and endurance, but when playing with other players, being a team member meant sacrificing ego and publicity so we could win.

Starting out playing with professionals at age 15 allowed me to learn from athletes who already had played in the major leagues, and knowing the “game” was part of the challenge. In those days, we didn’t have computers, radar guns, or algorithms to place on our sleeve or stuff in our caps. Most were simple scouting reports and past experience dealing with our opponents.

Still, you had to be physically skilled and mentally astute as we were constantly told to “keep your head in the game!”

We were taught to execute a sacrifice bunt, hit behind the runner, put them into scoring position, and know where to throw the ball and where the cut-off man would be. For me, pitching, covering first base on a hit to the right side, backing up the catcher on a hit to the outfield with a man in scoring position, and not missing a pick-off sign with a man on base, meant playing as a team.

Once I became a doctor, this teammanship followed me into medicine, but instead of a pitcher, I was now a quarterback. This was especially so with my hospitalized patients.

Upon a patient admission, I would assemble a team including nurses, specialty doctors, therapists, and social workers. Each would play a role, and my duty as quarterback was to know how they achieved their goals to get the patient back home. 

I was responsible for communicating with the patient and family about our progress and the anticipation of discharge. One fortunate advantage was that I also provided house calls, so, for many of my patients, I could anticipate their home needs, including nursing care, special assistance, or medical equipment, so that they wouldn’t end up back in the hospital.

Teammanship works, and in my life playing baseball and being a doctor, the successes I achieved came because everyone around me worked together. I got quite a few wins and, most importantly, saved many lives.

We, as a nation, have done the same. 

But now we are incredibly divided. 

This division, though, was not inevitable. Our Constitution is a hallmark of democracy; indeed, no society is perfect, as we have had our share of growing pains.

But our country is the greatest in the world, and everyone wants to come to the U.S. for a better life. We are at the top of our game in medicine, technology, education and quality of life. 

Plus, we are meeting future challenges, exploring outer space, finding a cure for cancer, and extending life expectancy. 

As with my patients, the needs and feelings of those suffering must be recognized and honored, assuring we all behave as a team to get us through challenging times. Suffering and hardship must be met with humanity and empathy. To make it through difficult times, one must reach back and pull others forward to help others on the team do the same.

Being a team player will allow us to succeed.

Don’t give up on each other, and “keep your head in the game!”

Dr. Gene Dorio


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