Combining a big heart focused on patient care and a scientific mind devoted to research and technological advancements, Dr. David Backstein embodies the specialist. As the Head of the Granovsky Gluskin Division of Orthopaedics at Mount Sinai Hospital, David has plenty of experience honing his surgical skills and learning about the complexities of the human knee. Dividing his time between working with patients on complex knee surgeries, administrative duties including supervising research fellows, with additional work like speaking engagements, developing new types of artificial knee components, and sitting as an Associate Editor of the prestigious Journal of Arthoplasty, he definitely has his work cut out for him.
David’s relationship to Toronto and to Mount Sinai has deep roots; he was even born in the hospital’s labour and delivery ward. After completing his residency, a fellowship with Dr. Allan Gross and being awarded a John Insall Travelling Fellowship, which allowed him to travel across the United States learning from a number of distinguished members of the field, he then returned to Mount Sinai in 2001, where he has worked ever since. “Toronto has always been home to me,” David explains. “I’ve considered other places, but always come back to the fact that the team at Mount Sinai is outstanding – it’s really the place to be when it comes to surgery and research. It’s a great hospital for doctors, with lots of opportunities for interdisciplinary work.”
When asked about his pathway to medicine and to surgery, David says that he always knew he wanted to be a doctor. He was drawn to orthopaedic surgery, a broad area covering the musculoskeletal system, starting in medical school. “I started out working with hip replacements as well, but I was drawn to the complexity of the knee – it’s fascinating to me,” said David. “I think there is definitely a place for generalists, but for me, I wanted to get really good at one thing, and the knee provided a great niche.” He adds, “I also saw the field as full of opportunity. There were a lot of problems at the time with knee replacements and low patient satisfaction that I knew I could improve upon.”
Aside from his dedication to his work, David has a real soft spot when it comes to his family, and his face lights up when discussing his kids. “With no pushing from me, both of my kids want to go into medicine now. It means a lot to me knowing that they see value in this work and in helping people and want to go into the field. Seeing them successful and happy is so important to me.”
Dr. Backstein offers advice for anyone who is about to undergo knee surgery• If you are older, don’t put it off too long. Choosing the right time will help you reap the benefits
• Be sure to pick a surgeon who does a high volume of surgeries and has a lot of experience.
• The better condition you are in before surgery, the faster your recovery will be.
• If you think something is wrong after surgery, don’t be afraid to speak up. Acting fast on your suspicions can catch a small problem before it becomes big.