Medical Ministry


DR. JOSEPH DUTKOWSKY (Orthopedic Surgeon): This is a young person who has a genetic missing piece of I think genetic 6 chromosome.

BOB FAW, correspondent: In a busy clinic in rural upstate New York, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky sees hundreds of children and adults disabled by disorders which leave them crippled or deformed. Or in the case of 19 year old Omer King Jr., blind and deaf from a metabolic dysfunction.

DUTKOWSKY: (speaking to patient) And we are going to pull. One, two, three.

FAW: As a doctor, everything Dutkowsky does is informed by his deep Catholic faith.

DUTKOWSKY: (speaking to nurse) Let’s get Jr. out here.

Was it St. Francis who said, “To preach the Gospel at all times, use words if necessary.” And so, you do it with your actions. People don’t need for me to preach at them. People don’t need for me to lecture them. They need, they need for me to care. They need for me to walk in with the love of God and to try and share it in any way that I can.

FAW: Whether treating Jr. or two married cerebral palsy patients, Josie and Chris Rosa.

DUTKOWSKY: (to Chris Rosa) You look like you should be bringing in an aircraft with that on it or something.

(to Josie Rosa): What you up to? You’re looking well today.

JOSIE ROSA: Yeah. We got to talk.

DUTKOWSKY: We got to talk. We can talk. That’s for sure.

FAW: Dr. Dutkowsky is unfailingly patient, willing to listen no matter how long it takes.

JOSIE: I know this might sound strange but can you test me for osteoarthritis?

DUTKOWSKY: (to Josie) Yeah. I’m happy to do that.

Patients like this, they need me to listen to them. They need somebody who cares enough to listen to their story, because they all have a story, they all have a need.

FAW: 57 year old Dutkowsky was an engineer when he says he got the calling to become a doctor.

DUTKOWSKY: I applied to medical school and I wrote my essay. I wrote that I wanted to take some of this technology and figure out a way to help people with disabilities. Now there’s nobody disabled in my family. There was nobody that I knew of who had a disability that I was thinking about when I did it. So I, I would take that as a Holy Spirit moment.

(to Jeremiah): Run, run, run back.

FAW: Most days here, Dutkowsky sees 25 to 30 patients like 8 year old Jeremiah Harrington, born with a club foot. For each patient, Dutkowsky uses an old-fashioned, leisurely approach rarely encountered in modern medical practice today.

DUTKOWSKY: (to Jeremiah) Can I look at your feet? Can I look at your feet? Thank you.

From a spiritual standpoint what I try and do as a physician is that even if I can’t cure the situation, even if I can’t cure the condition, if even I can’t make it all go away, if they’re being overburdened with that cross, if I can just hold up a corner sometimes, it might make it light enough for them to be able to carry it and move on.

FAW: Here in the country, he does more than just listen, give injections and comfort to anxious parents. Every Monday at the Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, he operates on severely disabled children and before each surgery, he prays.

DUTKOWSKY: It’s an overwhelming responsibility. And if I try and go in there on my own I run so many risks of failure. But if I come in and I and ask God to be with me and help me, that even in those cases where it might not work out perfectly, I’m with him and I can be in peace.

(while driving): I was born and raised in the country. I love being out here.

FAW: Dutkowsky isn’t anchored to the country though. Every week, crucifix nearby, he drives into New York City to see patients, three hours plus on the road often spent in prayer.

DUTKOWSKY: It’s a prayer to the Holy Spirit. It’s “Holy Spirit, soul of my soul, I adore thee. Enlighten, guide, strengthen and console me. Tell me what to do and command me to do it.”

FAW: Here, anywhere for that matter, Joseph Dutkowsky is not reluctant to display his faith.

DUTKOWSKY: Good morning, good day. Hello, God bless you. How you doing?

EMILY: Good.

FAW: But he never imposes his beliefs on anyone.

DUTKOWSKY: I’m not out there to tell them what to believe. But if I make that opening, and it’s important to them, then it can be part of their care.

FAW: It is a ministry he takes each week to New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital where at the Cerebral Palsy Center he sees patients like 10 year old Devon Ramsaram.

HARICHARD RAMSARAM (Devon’s father): After this shot, can we send him to school tomorrow?

FAW: Dutkowsky hopes the medical community will learn, from treatments pioneered here, how to treat cerebral palsy patients not just when they’re young but also as they grow older.

DUTKOWSKY: Country doctor, coming down to wonderful, you know, one of the finest medical centers in the world. I was way out of my comfort zone. But what’s the risk? If I fail, yeah, I got a little egg on my face. Big deal. But if we succeed, we can move the world.

JENNIFER SNYDER: (to Dr. Dutkowsky) He can’t get comfortable.

FAW: Two year old Nathan has a rare congenital disorder. His mother Jennifer feels about the same as most parents do when it comes to Dr. D as he is affectionately called.

SNYDER: He listens, yes. He’s a listener. He understands. He takes the time to educate a person such as myself.

CHRIS ROSA: A lot of doctors don’t listen. They just want to do what they gotta do for you and go away. Just because we may look funny doesn’t mean you should talk over us or through us.

FAW: It’s not like that with Dr. D though is it.

JOSIE ROSA: No, No. Because Dr. Dutkowsky would never treat us any different. He treats us with respect and decency.

FAW: And knowing that Dutkowsky is a man of faith reassures many, even non-Christians like Devon’s father Harichard Ramsaram.

HARICHARD RAMSARAM: Well it does, it does make me feel comfortable because it means that he has some sense of responsibility in what he does. You know what I’m saying? Because whoever believes in God does have a sense of caring, guidance. You know what I’m saying?

FAW: Treating so many young disabled patients might shake a person’s faith in a merciful God.

(to Dr. Dutkowsky): Do ever ask yourself why did God let that happen?

DUTKOWSKY: No, I don’t, because what I see when I see Omer, I go in that room and I feel love. It’s an energy from outside that draws me in.

FAW: There are bodies that are, forgive me, misshapen, malformed, twisted, crippled, and you see in that the likeness of God?

DUTKOWSKY: Yes, I do. I see the image and likeness of God in every one of those individuals.

FAW: For Dr. Dutkowsky then, faith and medicine intersect, complement one another. Seeing affliction, he also finds something meaningful.

DUTKOWSKY: There are days I go home with tears in my eyes because suffering is real. But sharing suffering is a gift. The depth of that love, the depth of that commitment, the depth of working with individuals like that, that’s the privilege.

FAW: Dutkowsky says he doesn’t heal, that only God can do that. In the meantime, this old-fashioned man of faith and modern man of science continues a ministry to both body and soul.

DUTKOWSKY: All right, God love you.

FAW: For Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, this is Bob Faw in Delphi, New York.

  • Arline

    It’s astonishing and hopeful that a piece like this is being run on PBS at a time when Christianity is the butt of jokes and even persecution. Dr. Dutkowsky believes in respecting the lives of all, at a time when the American culture promotes the “culture of death”. God bless Dr. Dutkowsky! Compassion and selfless service are hallmarks of Christianity, which is the reason that when there is a tragedy, it is the churches that are called upon most, to respond. How very bizarre that when life is going smoothly, organizations like the ACLU are trying to stamp out all vestige of religion in the public square. What will happen to America if they succeed? The Dr. Dutkowsky’s of the world are going to disappear and then where will we be?

  • Diane Engster

    As a person with several disabling conditions, I found the condescending tone of this report discouraging. There is just too much emphasis on how great the doctor is and how weak, deformed, and defective the patients are. Most people go to see a doctor when they are sick so why is it such a fantastic event that a doctor would serve people with disabilities. Why is treating a club foot any different than treating someone with cancer?

    Its great that this doctor is kind and gentle and listens and tries to live out his faith but I really don’t see why patients with disabilities are any different than any other patients. And most people with disabilities have many strengths that make interacting with us a very satisfying experience. After all Jesus seemed to want to spend a lot of time with us.

  • Sue Basili

    What Dr. Dutkowsky does is the essence of Christianity. Like Jesus who used to go around healing the sick. I don’t think that organizations like the ACLU is trying to stamp out all “vestige of religion in the public square”. The idea is to separate Church from State as it should be. The idea is to be free to practice your religion but the state should be neutral. People who had lived in countries where “State” has a religion like Egypt, religious minorities suffer .

  • Dolly Marie

    I’m also impressed regarding this segment about Dr. Dutkowsky’s work, contribution and goodness. He shows empathy; is an effective listener to his patient’s concerns with respect. Awesome and well done. Have a beautiful day. :) ~ Dolly Marie ~

  • marly youmans

    Congratulations, Dr. D! Proud to see your good work in the village and elsewhere recognized. (Although they forgot to mention that you teach our children how to dance…)

  • Jan

    Thank you, PBS, for airing this important story. We need more doctors like Dr. Dutkowsky who listen to and respect the value and dignity of their patients, particularly those with significant disabilities.

  • JDE

    @Arline: “It’s astonishing and hopeful that a piece like this is being run on PBS at a time when Christianity is the butt of jokes and even persecution… How very bizarre that when life is going smoothly, organizations like the ACLU are trying to stamp out all vestige of religion in the public square. What will happen to America if they succeed?”

    1. What the ACLU and similar organizations are trying to do is to create a more equitable society, which will necessitate putting a stop to Christian privilege. This is what prompts your leaders to tell you you’re being “persecuted”.

    2. Western Europe has been largely secular for decades, and they have a far more nurturing society than we have, with far fewer domestic problems.

  • Charles C. Anene

    Rev. Fr. [Dr.] Charles C. Anene says:
    April 22, 2013 at 12.52 am [Nigerian Time]

    Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky proves himself a man of Faith and Prayer who does his humanitarian and charitable work without imposing his Religion on any body as an orthopedic surgeon. His preocupation is to save lives, and make everyone happy. He goes about saving lives, touching lives and promoting lives, especially those of such children and adults with significant diabilities. Doctor Joseph Dutkowski thank you for treating your patients with love, dignity, prayer, and in fear of God. May God continue to bless, guide, protect and direct you through the Light of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

  • Carol McMorris

    I was impressed with Dr. Dutkowsky and very disappointed in the reporting. Doesn’t Religion and Ethics, consider the use of “People First Language” part of ethical reporting?

  • Channah

    The medicine and giving of the doctors’ time is good————-as long as they do not push their religion with it. Often they forget that not all people are Christians.

  • Channah

    As long as a religious medical doctor gives only of his professional service and not of religion, this is fine. Once he starts to preach, he is out of line. Not everyone is a Christian.

  • Ana

    I understand what you mean about the condescention though I didn’t pick it up myself in the piece. I guess that he sees the hardships people with disabilities face and is compassionate about that. The reporting itself if course makes use of the tear factor to promote the story. Typical reporting unfortunately. That is why I like that he says that he sees the image and likeness of God in the patients because we are strong in our weakness. I don’t think you can be a compassionate and empathetic doctor without appreciating the fortitude of the patients and their families.

  • imcobalt

    this is a wonderful piece and a wonderful physician in an age that despises the Church, one nation under God, and the greatness of American…our freedom is under siege and the criticism below unfounded and even evil..he does not push his spiritualism down anyone’s throat