Gary S. Shapiro, MD Surgeon, Kennedy-White Orthopaedic Center
SARASOTA - There are many physicians who, after a long day at work, might be content to spend their evenings relaxing at home. But on two or three nights per week during his busiest time of year, you will find Gary Shapiro working until 10 or 11 p.m. doing another job he loves: officiating baseball games.
Shapiro became involved in youth sports when his sons were in Little League. He was a coach in those days and as his children got older and moved on, so did he, but not before lamenting what he described as “some pretty bad officiating.” So, “instead of being a yeller, complainer and screamer, I decided to try to make it better,” Shapiro said. “I’m a put-up-or-shut-up kind of guy.” That was 12 years ago and Shapiro has been a high school baseball umpire ever since, as well as a team physician for Booker and Sarasota high schools.
Shapiro is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine as a member of the team at Kennedy-White Orthopaedic Center. He has practiced in Sarasota since 1993, and at Kennedy-White since 2003. He jumped on the path that led him to his specialty when he was a teenager growing up in Cleveland, Ohio. “A sports injury in high school introduced me to orthopedics,” he said. He was on the wrestling team and broke his leg during a practice. The doctor who treated him was a team physician for the Cleveland Browns professional football team, he said, “and I was kind of enamored.”
When he enrolled at The Ohio State University in Columbus, he knew an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering would be a great help when he applied to Wright State University School of Medicine in Dayton. After earning his MD there, he stayed in Dayton for his internship and residency before heading to California to accept a fellowship in sports medicine at Stanford University Medical Center. While at Stanford Shapiro became an early practitioner of arthroscopic laser techniques and, according to his biography, performed the first meniscal transplant at Stanford.
These days, Shapiro does most of his arthroscopic outpatient surgeries at Doctors Same Day Surgery Center, and his inpatient surgeries at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, and Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Shapiro said he is “one of the only (surgeons) around, as far as I know” who is doing meniscal allograft surgery. “There’s not a huge demand for it,” he said, but usually when it is needed is when “some kid blows his knee out.”
What brought him to Florida? “The weather and the water,” said Shapiro, who, when he’s not overseeing a patient or a baseball diamond, enjoys taking his 22-foot bay boat and his sons out to hook tarpon, snook, sea trout or redfish.
But Shapiro also pursues another passion on land: Two Missouri fox-trotting horses. It is a hobby he and his wife Lori share, and one that has satisfied him both recreationally and competitively.
The self-described “closet cowboy” has exhibited his horses, winning “best in show” at an all-gaited breed horse show in Virginia. But mostly he and Lori, his bride of 29 years, trail ride. They met during their freshman years at Ohio State. She was studying to become a veterinarian and he was tutoring her in math. Lori eventually switched majors to nursing. They married during his second year of medical school in Dayton.
“I love her dearly. She worked while I was in school and then raised our family. ... She gets a lot of credit for raising wonderful children who have stayed out of trouble and excelled in school. ... I couldn’t have done it without her,” said an obviously grateful Shapiro.
Shapiro said Lori has put her equine expertise to very good use by volunteering at InStride Therapy, a horse therapy program in Nokomis for participants with varying degrees of cognitive, physical, behavioral, psychological and sensory disabilities. She brings their horses there to help with the clients’ therapies.
That brand of involvement fits well with what Shapiro described as a “give forward” philosophy. Although he can’t point to a patient he has treated and inspired in the same way he was as a youngster, he has “taken care of some athletes who went on to college sports scholarships and played in the minor leagues. ... That’s very rewarding,” he said.
A rewarding life is high priority for Shapiro, and he is appropriately impatient in that regard. “If I want to do something, I do it and don’t wait. Life is fragile and fleeting,” he said. “I’m a seize-the-day guy. As I’ve gotten older and seen people (my age) pass, it has become more of my philosophy. You start reading the obituaries and see the year you were born, it kind of wakes you up a little bit,” said the 53-year-old.
To that end, Shapiro has always spent “as much time as I could with my kids, even it meant leaving the office early” and reducing his earning potential. That dedication to his children has resulted in the oldest, Aaron, graduating with a degree in finance from Eckerd College, where he played baseball for four years. And his youngest, Michael, graduating with honors from Sarasota High School and headed for Auburn University to study engineering.
Being an empty-nester should give Shapiro more time to explore his newest hobby. “I just picked up the guitar,” he said. “My youngest son plays and I have taught myself to read music. I get most of my lessons from the Internet.”
That is commendable, at least in Shapiro’s “put-up-or-shut-up” kind of way. But is he any good?
“I can play Heart of Gold by Neil Young, and Margaritaville (by Jimmy Buffett). My wife claims she recognizes the songs,” he laughed.