Going for the Gold in Jewish Education

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When Dr. Michael Vitale of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn decided to join the family business – it meant going to medical school and specializing in orthopedics. His father, Dr. Aldo Vitale and brother Dr. Mark Vitale are both practicing orthopedic surgeons, and his younger brother is now a resident at New York Presbyterian. But beyond carrying on a family tradition, for Dr. Michael Vitale, the real purpose of being a physician was to be able to help others. And the Brooklyn local from a nice Italian family, has indeed developed a reputation, particularly among the Orthodox Jewish community, for having helped many children with orthopedic procedures.

Dr. Vitale serves as Chief of the Pediatric Spine Service at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital (New York Presbyterian) on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which has become a medical resource for many nearby Monsey area Jewish families in Rockland county. Alongside his work with Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Columbia University, where he serves as the Ana Lucia Associate Professor of Clinical Orthopedic Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. Vitale runs a private medical practice in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where he was raised. Approximately 50 percent of the patients who seek out Dr. Vitale’s services are from outside the New York City area, and many travel from overseas or foreign countries to benefit from his skill and expertise.

A significant part of Dr. Vitale's practice involves the non-operative and operative treatment of children with spinal problems such as scoliosis. As part of the National Chest Wall and Spinal Deformity Study Group, he has a special interest in the treatment of scoliosis in the young child, including use of the Vertical Expandable Titanium Rib Device (VEPTR) and growing rods. Dr. Vitale’s application of VEPTR in complex scoliosis cases is considered a major breakthrough and advancement from previous surgical techniques.

Dr. Vitale also performs complex limb reconstruction surgery of the lower extremity for problems such as Blount's disease, leg length differences, and malfunctions of bones. Though a variety of techniques are used to address these problems, many are handled using a computer controlled external fixator called the Taylor Spatial Frame. “So much can be done today through technology, which has brought about vast improvements in pediatric orthopedics,” Dr. Vitale explains.

As Chief of Clinical Research for the Division of Pediatric Orthopedics, Dr. Vitale directs a large research effort which focuses on the assessment of patient outcomes in children with various orthopedic problems, and ways to optimize the quality of life of these children.

Another surgical procedure for which Dr. Vitale is known is vertebral stapling, which potentially decreases the degree of scoliosis during a child’s growth.  Dr. Vitale also performs limb lengthening and dysplasia surgery (where the hips have congenital deformities). 

All of these skill were brought to bear when Dr. Vitale travelled last spring, to earthquake ravaged Haiti to perform about 50 procedures on victims of the devastating quake. He has also made other charitable medical trips to China, Honduras, and Peru. For Dr. Vitale, these trips represent his true mission: to use his unique skill to improve people’s lives. Accompanied by his father and brother, Dr. Vitale will be making his second trip to Haiti in late January and an additional trip to Peru is planned for next spring.

Whether it’s young Moishe from Monsey or little Patricia from Port-au-Prince, the ultimate satisfaction for Dr. Vitale is seeing his seeing former patients walking, running, or playing sports as living evidence of the success of his work.