Specialty: Orthopaedic surgery
Titles: Chief, Department of Surgery, Co-Director of the Orthopedic and Spine Institute, Chief of Sports Medicine
Hospitals: Northern Westchester Hospital, Putnam Hospital Center
In 2010, boxer Gary Stark Jr. felt a stabbing pain in his shoulder during a title bout at Madison Square Garden. “Stark’s doctors told him it was tendonitis, but no one could figure out how to relieve his pain,” says Dr. Victor Khabie, an expert in orthopaedic sports medicine surgery. “He lost his health insurance, could not train or fight for over a year, and feared his career was over.”
Outside his role at Northern Westchester Hospital as Chief of Surgery and Chief of Sports Medicine and Co-Director of the Orthopedic and Spine Institute, Khabie serves as a ringside physician for several professional fighting organizations and the New York State Athletic Commission; at one match, he met Stark’s father, a boxing trainer and manager, who carried his son’s MRI with him. Khabie held it up to the light and suspected, even at first glance, it was more than tendonitis. He invited Stark to his office in Mount Kisco, found a rotator cuff full tear, and repaired it free of charge at Northern Westchester Hospital in 2012.
Khabie grew up in Minneapolis, the son of Lebanese and Syrian Jews. Exploring the “world of opportunity this country had to offer” involved playing college football at the University of Pennsylvania and, as a youth, joining the Boy Scouts, whose manual had a chapter he reread compulsively: “‘What to do if you get hurt in the woods — making a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.’ That’s when I had the itch to go into medicine.”
At Harvard Medical School, Khabie recalls the “tense, competitive environment” in which attending physicians posed questions to students. The first day of his orthopaedics rotation, assisting in a leg surgery, he steeled himself for a challenge. Instead, “the attending [physician] looked at me and said: ‘What did you think of last night’s football game?’” Khabie was happy to talk sports for the entire surgery.
“I noticed people in orthopaedics were sports-oriented, like me. They took care of athletes and seemed to be fit themselves,” he says. Khabie’s fellowship in sports medicine in Los Angeles — working with the Dodgers, Lakers, Kings, and Anaheim Mighty Ducks — gave him the chance to treat high-level athletes. His mentor there, Dr. Frank Jobe, invented ulnar collateral reconstruction, better known as Tommy John surgery, a breakthrough in sports medicine. Khabie designed a patented knee brace with a multidimensional neoprene support, called the “Victory Knee Brace.”
His return to the East Coast, and Westchester County, meant “taking care of high-school teams and college athletes instead of professional athletes” — not as glamorous, he admits, but just as meaningful. “For students in districts like Newburgh, I’m sometimes the only medical care they have,” he says. During one such game, a coach mentioned the New York State Athletic Commission was seeking a ringside physician during bouts.
“I like the thrill of being on the sidelines,” says Khabie. “When I watch TV, I’m entertained. When I watch it ringside, I’m focused; I need to ensure the safety of fighters.”
The opponent he’d like to take down is insurance. “At times, it interferes with proper medical care,” he says, citing dilemmas he’s experienced as team physician for Pace University’s football team: “If the star running back hurts his knee, I need the MRI immediately. If they don’t play, their scholarship can get yanked. If they do play, they might get injured further.” After all, decisive action can save a career — helping boxers like Stark get back in the ring. “He tells reporters that not only did I save his shoulder, I saved his career.”