Physician Profile: Dr. George Balis, Metro Orthopaedics & Sports Therapy
The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics employs some of the most experienced orthopaedic physicians in the region. On February 1, 2017, we welcomed Dr. George Balis to our Metro Orthopaedics and Sports Therapy care center. Dr. Balis boasts an impressive career treating orthopaedic injuries and conditions of all kinds. He retired from The Cleveland Clinic at the end of 2016, but sought an opportunity to continue helping orthopaedic patients in our community on a part-time, nonsurgical basis, despite his successful 40+ year career. We sat down with Dr. Balis to better get to know him, his experiences and his interests.
Tell us a little bit about your career as an orthopedic surgeon.
I have been a board certified orthopedic surgeon since 1985. As a general orthopedic surgeon, I treated many different conditions and injuries. Sub-specialization was not quite as prevalent as it is today and most general orthopedic surgeons treated a wide array of injuries. This included sports injuries, major trauma, joint replacements, arthroscopic surgery as well as spine conditions and pediatric conditions.On any given day, I could have operated on in an elderly patient with a hip fracture and then performed surgery to repair a clubfoot on one-year-old child.
Over the years, sub-specialization has become the rule and more orthopedic surgeons sub-specialize today. At the Cleveland Clinic, I was a general orthopedic consultant where I saw patients from all over the country and in many cases from all over the world, in addition to seeing local community patients. Many of these patients were seeking second, third or fourth opinions for very complicated orthopedic conditions.
After retiring from the Cleveland Clinic, my wife and I moved back to the Washington, D.C. area since this is where we called home. I am now focusing my practice on non-surgical orthopedics. I see all different kinds of injuries and conditions in my current practice in Silver Spring, from simple sprains to advanced arthritis. Fortunately, most orthopedic patients seen in an outpatient office do not require surgery and can be treated with medication, physical therapy, bracing, casting, injections, etc. When surgery is required, I have the additional good fortune of being able to refer my patients to the wide CAO network of orthopedic subspecialists.
You also have an interest in sports medicine. Can you talk about your history working with athletes and sports medicine?
As I said, at the beginning of my career, sub-specialization was not as prevalent as it is today and treating sports injuries was part of general orthopedics. I had a personal interest in sports and fitness and a large percentage of my patient population was young and athletic. Therefore, a good portion of my practice gravitated towards sports. I performed many arthroscopic surgeries over the years, especially to the knee, including ACL reconstructions.
Also, taking care of the aging athlete is important to me. As I am getting older and trying to stay fit myself, I recognize even more that it is important to work with patients not only to treat their current injuries and conditions, but to try to help them prevent future injuries.
What made you pursue orthopedics versus another medical specialty?
For the most part, orthopedics is a fun specialty, especially for those who like to work with their hands. I always enjoyed building things and doing carpentry. There is a technical aspect of orthopedics, whether repairing fractured bones or reconstructing joints, which was challenging but fun when I was doing surgery. Just as important, most orthopedic surgeons are able to improve their patients' conditions through nonsurgical as well as surgical means. In most cases, we do not have to deliver bad news to patients. Of course there are always exceptions but the vast majority of orthopedic outcomes are positive.
Can you tell us about your experience earning your medical degree from the University of Athens?
I am of Greek heritage. My mother was born in Greece as were my maternal and paternal grandparents. Greek culture and language were a large part of my life growing up in Brooklyn, New York. I did not even learn to speak English until I went to kindergarten. We had close family ties in Greece. When my grandfather passed away in the late 1960s, my grandmother moved back to Greece and I decided to go with her. I pursued medical school while I was there. I also met my wife in Greece and 44 years later we are still together.
After retiring from the Cleveland Clinic, how did you end up at Metro Orthopedics and Sports Therapy?
I have known Dr. Gilbert and his father (a retired urologist) for many years. When I retired from the Cleveland Clinic, I knew I wanted to continue working on a part-time basis and I reconnected with Dr. Gilbert when we made the decision to return to Washington. It was a good fit.
I enjoy working at MOST. We see patients of all ages but our focus is on sports medicine and this imparts a youthful aura to the office. We treat a lot of soccer players of all levels, which I enjoy, as I have been a U.S. and international soccer fan for years. Also, because we have physical therapy and athletic training as part of our practice, I'm able to treat and refer many of these patients for nonsurgical treatment and get direct feedback from our therapists and the trainers.
What are your interests outside of work?
Trying to stay fit as I get older takes more effort. I hike, I walk on the C&O canal and go to the gym. I like to play golf (I usually walk and carry my golf bag). I'm very interested in Greek and Roman history and art, so living in Washington is great with the array of museums and art galleries available. There is so much going on in the area which makes living here so appealing.
Dr. George Balis joined the Metro Orthopaedics and Sports Therapy care center this year after spending 12 years at The Cleveland Clinic. He is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon with more than 40 years of experience. He returned home to Montgomery County to focus on nonsurgical, office-based orthopaedics, sharing his extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide spectrum of orthopaedic related conditions and injuries. He earned his medical degree at the University of Athens and completed residencies at George Washington University and Miami Valley Hospital/Wright State University.