Bassett Surgeon Dedicates Life to Caring for Persons with Disabilities

“I have the best job in the world,” said Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky, a Bassett Medical Center pediatric orthopedist who retired from performing surgery about one year ago.

Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky
Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky

After graduating from medical School at Brown University and serving a prestigious Harvard fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital, Dr. Dutkowsky was on the fast track to become a world renowned orthopedic surgeon for a large, urban medical system.

He quotes Robert Frost saying, “I took the road less traveled and it made all the difference in the world.”

Dr. Dutkowsky joined Bassett Healthcare Network more than 25 years ago and raised his family in upstate New York where he grew up.

Dr. Dutkowsky has dedicated his 30-year career to caring and advocating for persons with disabilities. He is the past president of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine and was a pioneer in the care of adults with childhood onset disabilities.

He considers his patients and their families to be his “greatest professors and mentors.”

Dr. Dutkowsky wrote a book about “the incredible lives of the people I serve” entitled Perfectly Human. He describes the “beauty and wonder” that his patients have brought him and “the humanity we all share.”

One out of every 274 people are born with cerebral palsy according to Dr. D. There are more than one million people with cerebral palsy in the United States. Advances in the care of patients with cerebral palsy also means that two thirds of those with the condition are adults.

Medicine was not Dr. Dutkowsky’s initial career path. He worked as an engineer for McDonnell Douglas, a large government contractor, in Huntington Beach, CA.

“Everyone told me I should become an orthopedist.” One day, Joseph Dutkowsky thought ‘What if instead of creating stuff that blows people up, I could build things to help children with disabilities?’ 

“I consider being able to participate in these workshops God’s gift to me for the past 30 years.”

Dr. Dutkowsky fully embraces patient-centered care and still travels from Cooperstown to Cobleskill to Herkimer to Delhi and to Oneonta to serve his patients on a rotating basis.

During his career at Bassett, Dr. Dutkowsky received an invitation to move to New York City and open the Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center at Columbia University Medical Center. He said, “I can’t leave these people who have been my patients for 20 years!”

He agreed to help open the Weinberg Center by adding clinics and surgeries in New York City to his rotation two days a week for five years.

Dr. Dutkowsky and his late wife, Karen, developed ballroom dancing skills over a 30-year period. When the New York City Ballet emailed Dr. Dutkowsky six years ago, he agreed to help the ballet establish movement workshops for children and adults with disabilities.

NYC Ballet soloists and principal dancers provide the instruction and share their joy of dancing and the dance floor with participants. This program has grown to over 50 events per year.

Due to COVID-19, the workshops are all online now which has allowed the ballet to expand participation to two families in Lithuania and Australia.