The Other Side of the Stethoscope
In her spare time, Osterling works with the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Loss, which keeps her in contact with other deaf doctors around the country. In addition, she recently volunteered as the medical coordinator for the 16th Winter Deaf Olympics in Salt Lake City—helping skiers and skaters and other athletes for whom "picking yourself up" is a literal as well as a figurative exhortation.
Michael Mayor, DMS orthopaedist
Dr. Michael Mayor, a professor of orthopaedic surgery at DMS and an adjunct professor of engineering at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering, is internationally known as a member of a biomedical engineering team that revolutionized the design of prosthetic joints. It may be less well known that Mayor not only has a knee implant (like those he designed) in his left leg, but that he lost his right leg as a teenager.
"The challenge of growing up with an artificial limb shaped a lot of what I have become," he says now, looking back on his 40-year career in medicine. Today, he no longer performs surgery but is still actively doing orthopaedic research. And he relishes the time he is able to spend puttering around his home workshop and managing the forest on a big woodlot north of Hanover that he and his wife own.
A high school athlete who excelled in football, hockey, and lacrosse, Mayor lost his right leg to atypical fibrous sarcoma just before he entered college. "The loss was stunning," he recalls.
His family showered him with love and support, which he appreciates to this day. Not long after his surgery, Mayor's father took him to meet New Jersey inventor and coach Donald Kerr, himself an amputee. Kerr spent several years helping the young athlete get back into squash, badminton, and tennis, sports he continued to play throughout his undergraduate studies in engineering and business at Yale.
Mayor says living for more than 40 years as an amputee gave him an advantage in the clinical arena. "When I changed a dressing or adjusted a splint, I [could use my personal knowledge] to reduce pain and unpleasantness."
Mayor recalls that, in his case, fear of the cure overshadowed his fear of the underlying disease. "We didn't talk much about cancer in those days," he says.
One winter at Yale, some of his friends invited him to go with them on a ski trip to Mad River Glen in Vermont. Mayor was game but unsure what he'd do while everyone else was skiing. Maybe he'd hang around the lodge or watch his buddies race down the hill. But the ski school director had another idea. He showed Mayor some primitive outrigger poles he had tucked away. Thanks to help from some sports equipment salespeople, an orphaned left ski boot, and a single ski abandoned by its owner after its mate had shattered, Mayor soon had a jury-rigged outfit that he, too, could
use to fly down the slopes. He was hooked.
"I had a lot of power in my arms," he recalls, "so we skied all over New England." Mayor even met his future wife, Lili, on one of those outings. He says now that conquering the ski slopes convinced him that having only one leg was more of a challenge than a handicap. There would be nothing he couldn't accomplish, he decided, once he put his mind to it.
In 1959, Mayor graduated from Yale with a degree in electrical engineering, then completed his premedical requirements before entering Yale School of Medicine. He did his residency at Cleveland's University Hospitals. Intrigued by Mayor's background, the chief of orthopaedic surgery there asked him to spend his research rotation helping the department establish a clinical unit that could advance the budding technology for doing hip replacements. By 1970, the hospital was doing some of the first such surgeries in the U.S. And by 1971, when Mayor joined the faculty at Dartmouth, he had performed more hip replacements than anyone else in Cleveland.
In Hanover, Stanley Brown, a '71 Dartmouth engineering grad, asked Mayor to form a research group to test and develop materials for use in orthopaedic procedures. In a little lab behind the Medical School, Mayor and Brown undertook a series of studies of orthopaedic implants and of the reactions patients had to their implants. Later, Mayor served on the thesis committee for an engineering Ph.D. student, John Collier, and upon Collier's graduation he and Mayor began to collect failed, "explanted" prosthetic joints. They wanted to study what hadn't worked in the hope of learning how to make implants that would work better. It took several years, but by the late 1970s they had developed a new class of orthopaedic biomedical materials and techniques. One involved making implants with a thin, porous metal coating to which the bone could cleave, making the implant truly part of the individual's skeleton. This allowed surgeons to forego