Home Past IssuesAbout UsContact Us Twitter Icon Facebook Logo LinkedIn Logo
Dartmouth Medical School Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

Vital Signs

Clinical Observation

In this section, we highlight the human side of clinical academic medicine, putting a few questions to a physician at DMS-DHMC.

John Nutting, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics

Nutting specializes in upper extremity surgery, especially of the shoulder, as well as sports medicine and reconstructive surgery. He joined the DMS faculty in 1986.

What made you decide to become a physician?
When I was a student at Johns Hopkins, I was working in the basement at the Baltimore Cancer Research Center doing experiments on mice with tumors. One day the primary investigator asked me if I wanted to see oncology patients at Hopkins Hospital who were getting some of the chemotherapeutic agents we were using to fight tumors. So I went up into the light of the hospital and thought, "I'd rather do this than hang with mice down in the basement."

How did you become interested in your specialty?
The decision to do surgery versus medicine was pretty easy. I love to operate. The decision about what subspecialty to do in surgery was harder because I liked so many of them. I realized that orthopaedics is a happy field, if you will, in that most people have had a bump in the road, you help them get through it, and for the most part they go back to their preinjury status.

What do you like most about your job?
The people. My patients and the people with whom I work. My partners, as well as the residents and all the folks who work in our department, are really hard-working, good people.

What's your favorite nonwork activity?
I like to do stand-up paddle board and windsurf. I also cycle and row a shell. In the winter, I ski and skate. And I also like to paint—watercolors, especially of bluefish.

What kind of music do you listen to most?
I listen to music whenever I can, whether it's in the operating room or at home. I like John Prine, Nancy Griffith, 6 Day Bender, James Taylor, and Alison Krauss.

What three people would you most like to have to dinner?
My two kids and [international health expert] Paul Farmer—because he has successfully done what I would like to do, and he has devoted himself to it.

What is your most memorable accomplishment?
My colleague Mike Sparks and I were involved in a seven-year project in Kosovo. We traveled there regularly to help to rebuild orthopaedics after the NATO bombing; we taught the orthopaedic surgeons there and supplied approximately five million dollars' worth of donated equipment. And this past January, we made an initial entree into Rwanda, where we're trying to figure out a way to help them take care of folks with musculoskeletal problems. The way we think will be most helpful is to start at the village health center level, teaching them primary musculoskeletal care.

Where would you most like to travel?
Vietnam. My dad fought in Vietnam, and I feel as though that was an important place in my history when I was growing up. I've actually talked about going there with my dad at some point, but it hasn't happened yet.

What was your first paying job?
I was a lifeguard at a country club in Virginia and taught swimming lessons for little kids.

What about you would surprise most people?
A lot of kids think I look like I'm either mad or mean because of my mustache. I think what would surprise most people is that behind this big, bushy mustache, I'm usually smiling.

If you'd like to offer feedback about this article, we'd welcome getting your comments at DartMed@Dartmouth.edu.

This article may not be reproduced or reposted without permission. To inquire about permission, contact DartMed@Dartmouth.edu.

Back to Table of Contents

Dartmouth Medical SchoolDartmouth-Hitchcock Medical CenterWhite River Junction VAMCNorris Cotton Cancer CenterDartmouth College