TORONTO — Dr. Marvin Tile, 76, an orthopedic surgeon who was recently appointed a member of the Order of Canada, attributes his career to a broken ankle.
Dr. Marvin Tile
“I was a student at Harbord Collegiate, and I was an all-star basketball player. I [was injured], though, playing football. I got high marks because I had nothing to do but study.”
Tile, who was appointed to the surgical staff of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in 1966 and went on to become chief of orthopedic surgery in 1971 and surgeon-in-chief from 1985 to 1996, was honoured for his contributions as a clinical orthopedic surgeon, a teacher and a researcher.
He graduated from University of Toronto medical school in 1957, and was attracted to orthopedics, he said, “as are many athletes. Orthopedics is a magnet for athletic people. When I [conduct interviews], I find it amazing how many people had athletic involvement or injuries. There is a definite [link].”
Before he stopped operating in 2000 – he stopped seeing patients last year – he had performed more than 4,000 hip and knee replacements. “These surgeries changed people’s lives. I was known in the community,” Tile said.
He now acts as orthopedic medical adviser on the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board Tribunal.
Tile is known worldwide for his work in trauma care, and has become a world authority in the treatment of pelvic and acetabular (socket of the hip joint) trauma.
He has trained clinicians from around the world in the care of patients with critical orthopedic injuries, and has published two books and 59 manuscripts that have shaped the practice of orthopedics across the globe.
He said that “trauma is a whole different ball game [compared to other injuries.] The definition of trauma is multiple-system injury. It means head and chest, and several fractures.
“The first hour after injuries is critical; we call it the golden hour. That is the window we have for saving the patient’s life.
“When I graduated from medical school, trauma was treated in a haphazard way, and injured patients were taken to the nearest hospital. Trauma units did not exist, and patients often died because they were not treated properly in that first golden hour.”
When he was working at St. Joseph’s Health Centre and part-time at Sunnybrook as a consultant in 1966, he said, “I had visited major orthopedic centres in Europe, and I approached the chief surgeon at Sunnybrook and told him we needed a focus. Along with a team of surgeons, we lobbied the government, and a trauma unit was approved. It took five years for us to open our doors.”
As the first and – and now the largest – unit in Canada, they immediately got busy with road trauma, he said. “We hired a surgical team trained in trauma, and the volume of patients [kept increasing]. Very little polytrauma is treated in the community. Paramedics are trained to make a decision, and to bring patients to us when necessary.
“We see about 1,200 patients a year. When we opened, we saw very little gunshot or knife wounds; now, 20 per cent of the patients come in with gunshot or knife wounds. That’s the changing face of the city.”
Currently, Tile said, there are seven trauma units in Ontario, and they are all covered by helicopter and co-ordinated by telephone through Sunnybrook. “We can now take advantage of that golden hour. We save lives and improve quality of life.”
He added that Sunnybrook has ties with Hadassah Hospital in Israel, and the two hospitals run the Sunnybrook Hadassah Orthopedic Exchange. “We trained five Israeli fellows last year,” said Tile, who has visited Israel “at least a dozen times” since 1965.
Receiving the Order of Canada is a tremendous honour, said Tile, who is married to Esther, and has four children and nine grandchildren.
“They give out about 120 a year, and only 10 per cent are doctors. We’re looking at a small number of people, and there are so many worthy doctors.”