Doctor’s hands serve science and art
Dr. Bernard Bach, an orthopedic surgeon, operates on a piece of glass. Glassblowing is one of his hobbies. Bach also is the team physician for Oak Park-River Forest High School as well as the Chicago White Sox and Bulls. | Provided
Updated: February 19, 2013 12:15PM
As a veteran orthopedic surgeon, River Forest resident Dr. Bernard Bach is used to functioning at a very high level professionally.
We’re told art and science use different sides of the brain, but that doesn’t preclude Bach, a self-professed “doer,” from engaging both sides of his brain and his hands for good measure.
As a doctor he spends his days and a few evenings tending to the needs of athletes as an surgeon.
When his workday is over, he uses the same hands that help heal to create sundry forms of art, including woodworking and glass blowing. His home and office are filled with pieces he’s created.
In his capacity as director of sports medicine at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush Hospital, Bach oversees a team of 40 doctors. Among the group’s clients are the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox.
One of the first sports medicine doctors to practice in Chicago, Bach pioneered the Orthaepedic Sports Medicine program at Rush. A board-certified knee and shoulder specialist, Bach has published more than 600 peer-reviewed books, papers and book chapters.
About 85 percent of his caseload is knee surgery, the rest shoulders.
Bach also works with younger doctors at Rush to conduct research studies and trains the next generation of sports medicine leaders.
Besides spending a week at the White Sox spring training camp in Arizona each February, Bach shares sideline time at Bulls and Sox games with several of his colleagues.
A three-sport athlete in high school in Michigan, Bach played both football and baseball in college at Harvard University. He’s been at Rush Hospital since 1986, and has been team doctor for the Oak Park River Forest Huskies football team since 1988.
Q. What are your responsibilities with the Bulls and White Sox?
A. “(My colleagues and I) share time. We’re at every home game. Both an orthopedic doctor and a doctor of internal medicine. With the White Sox I’ll cover 16 to 20 games, and go to spring training in Arizona for five to seven days. With the Bulls I’ll cover four or five games (a year).”
Q. What’s your biggest satisfaction professionally?
A. “To take care of patients who are highly motivated and what to get better. To either rehab without surgery, or do surgery and see a patient have an excellent clinical outcome.
“I also enjoy developing long-lasting friendships and relationships.”
Q. Can you talk about both the differences and similarities between medicine and art?
A. “There are steps (in art), just like doing surgery. It’s learning the steps, mastering them. As a surgeon, we not only use our intellects, but sometimes our hands. Our hands are craftsmen in terms of what we do technically. Basically it’s an extension of the creativity we have as surgeons working with our hands.”
Q. And differences?
A. “The results of surgery are so much more predictable.”
Q. Why art for a hobby?
A. “I’ve collected antique patent medicine jars, circa the 1870s, since I was 14. I did wood work even as a resident. Four years ago my wife gave me a gift certificate to Prodigy Glassworks. My first time I thought, ‘This is really cool.’ I took a couple of hundred hours with (owner) Matt Kwilas.”
Q. Why not something beside art?
A. I’m not a golfer. I don’t collect cars. We don’t take a lot of exotic vacations. I love my home.”
Q. Are there differences between artistic pursuits?
A. “With glass blowing, it’s a dynamic process. You start something and finish within two hours. It’s not like woodworking. With glass blowing, it’s teamwork. You’re working with at least one other person.”
Q. And unlike the slow process of wood working, glass blowing has an uncertainty about it?
A. “You never really know until it cools and cures in the annealing (hardening) oven.”
Q. So, any other artistic pursuits planned?
A. “I want to learn how to paint. And I’m going to visit a bronze foundry to see how that’s done.”