February 1998 Bulletin

Image building/Sandra Lee Breisch

Orthopaedist molds image of profession on TV

Robert C. Klapper, MD, left, and Paul McCrane of "ER"

Dr. Klapper is technical advisor for popular "ER" program Although Robert C. Klapper, MD, was recently named orthopaedic technical advisor for the award-winning NBC show "ER," his ego didnít do flip-flops. But rather, the assignment spurred him to think about how this opportunity could "maximize the visual presence of orthopaedic surgeons in America."

"Take sports, for instance, many times the national league franchises revolve around whether or not the orthopaedic surgeons say athletes can play," explains Dr. Klapper. "There are two heroes here: the player and the orthopaedic surgeon. But we rarely hear about the latter of the two."

By stepping into Hollywoodís limelight and consulting "ERís" newest orthopaedic TV character, Rocket Romano, Dr. Klapper hopes to enhance the image of orthopaedic surgeons.

Dr. Klapper, who is in a group practice at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, puts in a six-to-eight-hour work week at the Hollywood set without remuneration. In addition to treating some high profile Hollywood stars, he also has treated many behind-the-scenes people.

Last season, Dr. Klapper was asked by a writer/technical advisor for advice about an episode involving knee cartilage transplantation. Later, he was consulted about a scene involving the treatment of a patient who had an open fracture of the femur. The word "amputation" was tossed around. "But by using a ring external fixator to save the patientís leg, amputation wasnít necessary," explains Dr. Klapper. "This scene was an opportunity for us to be heroes, as opposed to saying, ëYou have this injury, call the orthopaedic surgeon, you need amputation.í It was very rewarding for me to make that story happen."

Taking his role as consultant a step further, Dr. Klapper influenced the TV orthopaedist, played by actor Paul McCrane, by bringing him to the office, taking him on rounds and allowing him to observe hip and knee surgery. "I could see how the actorís excitement of our profession continued to build," Dr. Klapper says.

He says he is trying to inundate the actor with a sense of "what an orthopaedic surgeon does and what tools he uses, so that the writers can continue to make us appear as heroes."

By "educating" the 3.8 million people who watch "ER" each week, Dr. Klapper hopes to create a positive image of the orthopaedic profession. "Itís time for us to tout our horn," says Dr. Klapper. "When you think about it, people need to know that what we do is really, really important."


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