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Dr. Neal ElAttrache featured in Passan's acclaimed book, The Arm



"That relationship you make with a patient...if that privilege doesn't strike you right in the chest...you're missing the most beautiful thing about what we do."

-- Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Jeff Passan's The Arm



The excerpt below, featuring Dr. Neal ElAttrache, is taken from The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports, by Jeff Passan. Copyright © 2016 by Jeff Passan. Reprinted by arrangement with Jeff Passan:

"I always have to take care of my patients and do surgery and do that well. That trumps everything else," ElAttrache said. "That level of intimacy, that relationship you make with a patient, celebrity or athlete or not, is almost like a sacred thing. I tell the guys we're training: if that privilege doesn't strike you right in the chest, to have that given to you, you're missing the most beautiful thing about what we do. It doesn't matter how famous they are. It's that you can really be involved in someone's life."

Orthopedics called him, as it did his father, Selim, who attended Jesuit school in Lebanon as a kid, studied medicine in France, and came to Chicago in the mid-1950s to complete his residency at Northwestern University. He didn't know much English, so he learned by joining a local YMCA for three months. He met a nurse named Vera, got married, graduated, moved to Utah, started a family, and relocated to Pittsburgh, where he took care of the United Mine Workers. Three of his children would grow up to be doctors. Neal was the famous one. When he gave lectures around the country, his father sometimes showed up unannounced and snuck into the back row for a listen.

"My first day in medical school, my first class in anatomy, I knew I had been blessed to find maybe the only thing I'm any good at in my life," ElAttrache said. "I feel very fortunate to have been able to find it. I immediately knew I was home."

Passan, Jeff. The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports,. New York: Harper, an Imprint of HarperCollins, 2016. Print.