Gary E. Friedlaender, MD, is an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in musculoskeletal oncology, or benign and malignant tumors of the bones. He leads the Sarcoma Program at Smilow Cancer Hospital, treating rare cancers that involve the bones, cartilage, muscle and other tissues in the body.
Dr. Friedlaender has achieved national recognition for his surgical innovations, including development of limb-salvaging techniques that are now considered essential to orthopaedic oncology surgery.
However, he considers his close connections with his patients to be the key element in his approach to orthopaedics. Good physicians are great communicators—skilled at discovering information that patients may be reluctant to share, or that they have misinterpreted or forgotten, Dr. Friedlaender says. He tells new doctors, “In asking what is bothering the patient, we must convey our interest in hearing what they have to say. Sit down, make eye contact, ask open-ended questions, and, whatever you do, don’t interrupt.”
Dr. Friedlaender is a professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation at Yale School of Medicine. He was chair of the department for 30 years, and was responsible for making Yale Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation a leader in the field. He has served as president of several important professional organizations, including the American Orthopaedic Association. Connecticut Magazine has included Dr. Friedlaender in its annual lists of Top Docs in the state.
He says he decided to enter the medical field when he was a child, after watching his father, also a physician, at work. He chose to pursue orthopaedics because he admired the doctors who treated the musculoskeletal injuries he had as a child. He has seen the field change dramatically since then. When he was a resident in the 1970s, the survival rate for osteosarcoma, the most common type of bone cancer, was 15 to 20 percent; now the cure rate is 80 percent.
“I get joy from working in an environment like Yale, and even more so now with Smilow Cancer Hospital,” Dr. Friedlaender says. “There are so many capable, creative and energetic physicians and they are all under one roof. The scientists, nursing staff, and support individuals make the work in oncology not only possible, but rewarding. It’s all about the patient.”