Today's News

Friday, February 25, 2005

Irish Tenor shares secret to success

By Kathleen Misovic

Ronan Tynan, MD, yesterday's presidential guest speaker, has not let his disabilities get in the way of a life of accomplishments. Most commonly known as one of the Irish Tenors, he has operated a sports medicine clinic in Ireland and won many medals at disabled athlete games. He says the support of family and friends is what inspired him to believe in himself and reach his goals.

Dr. Tynan entered the Ballroom to a standing ovation, as he sang a tribute to his home country of Ireland, Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears. "I feel a little overwhelmed surrounded by so many orthopaedic surgeons," he joked afterwards.

Be happy with what you have
Ronan Tynan is well acquainted with orthopaedic surgeons and their surgical skills. Born in Kilkenny, Ireland, with lower leg problems, he had an active childhood and rode horses. At age 20, he decided to have his legs amputated below his knees and was fitted with two prosthesis. For the first time he was able to stand straight and tall.

After the surgery, Dr. Tynan was in a wheelchair for nine months and had to undergo therapy to get accustomed to his new limbs. But instead of focusing on the difficulties of being a double amputee, he found ways to use his disabilities to his advantage.

"The beauty of being a double amputee is you can be any height," he said. He related an amusing story from his younger days racing horses as a jockey. "I would enter the jockey enclosure at 6 foot 1 inch and exit at 5 feet. After seeing this, my father and my uncle were the only people who believed in me and bet on me, so they won a lot of money."

About a year after his amputation, Dr. Tynan began participating in disabled athlete games. Between 1981 and 1990, he amassed 18 gold medals and 14 world records in international track and field events. "I might never have been an able-bodied athlete, but my physical challenges made me take risks and become a disabled Olympic champion," he said.

After his success in athletics, Dr Tynan decided to further his education and was the first disabled person admitted to the National College of Physical Education in Limerick. Then he began medical training in Trinity College in Dublin.

But before he began practicing medicine, Dr. Tynan decided to take a musical detour. In 1994 he entered a musical contest, "Go For It," and from there his career took off. He sang on his own in several contests and venues, then joined the Irish Tenors in 1988. When facial bone fractures he suffered from a fall off a horse affected his singing, he took a break from his musical career to open a sports medicine clinic in Ireland in 1996. He now lives in New York and is pursuing an individual singing career.

Give and receive support
"My father told me early on, 'Ronan, you're great.' What a great mentor he was," Dr. Tynan recalled. "Early on I transcribed that message and put it in my brain."

Although his father has died, Dr. Tynan still relies on his words of encouragement to carry him through when things get rough. He encouraged audience members to follow his father's example and become mentors to their family, friends and colleagues.

"You do shape and influence other people's lives," he said. "Don't be slow in giving or accepting encouragement. You don't realize the benefits it reaps."

He also encouraged the audience to take chances and rise to new challenges in their careers and personal lives.

"The biggest risk in life is not taking any risks at all," he said.

Dr. Tynan closed his talk the same way he began it, with another song. But he chose a ballad in honor of his adopted country, God Bless America.

AAOS President Robert W. Bucholz, MD, then awarded Dr. Tynan with an honorary membership to the AAOS.

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