Alumni Spotlight: A
dancer's doctor Orthopedist William
Hamilton '54 sees to feet, legs, and hips
William G. Hamilton '54 occupies an unusual niche within his medical
specialty, orthopedic surgery. As the orthopedist to the New York
City Ballet, its School of American Ballet, and the American Ballet
Theatre, as well as a consultant to many other dance companies,
Hamilton's patients are almost entirely professional athletes and
It's nothing he ever planned. One day in 1971, George Balanchine,
choreographer and artistic director of the New York City Ballet,
"came over to ask me if I'd take care of his dancers. It turned
out we lived on the same block, and we became good friends,"
says Hamilton, an engineering major at Princeton and graduate of
Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, whose
Manhattan office is near Lincoln Center. The friendship continued
until Balanchine's death in 1983.
According to Hamilton, "Most of the problems we see with
dancers are the same as in any athlete: strains, stress fractures,
muscle pulls." But specific to dancers are "sprained ankles
from jumps, and hip trouble because of foot turnout. The back of
the ankle may be a problem because of dancing en pointe; and there
are forefoot problems caused by toe shoes."
Major career-ending injuries are rare, he says. "Dancing
is not dangerous. It is one of the safest, and healthiest, things
you can do."
The dancers are "wonderful patients," he says. "They
want to get well. They'll do whatever it takes." And what it
takes, according to Hamilton, is "teamwork. You need a good
doctor, a good patient, and an excellent rehabilitation therapist.
It's the rehab that gets the joint or muscle working again."
Another member of the team is Hamilton's wife, Linda, a former
dancer and a former patient of his, now a clinical psychologist
who works with artists.
Hamilton attends the ballet frequently. "To sit in the audience,"
he says, "and see someone dance who wasn't able to dance the
month before, to have played some part in that process, is very
By Caroline Moseley
Caroline Moseley is a frequent contributor to PAW.