PROFILE 2010: Dr. Anthony Tropeano
It is soccer season. That is a fact that matters to an increasing number in Demopolis. But, it may not excite anyone more than Dr. Anthony Tropeano. Demopolis’ resident orthopedic surgeon and chief of staff at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital is an avid supporter of the game he played throughout high school and college.
“We lived right outside of Baltimore, Md. in the early to mid-70s. My parents moved to Birmingham in the late 70s,” Tropeano explains. “My parents were involved in starting one of the first soccer clubs in Birmingham. My brothers and I loved it and we were fortunate enough to play through high school and were also fortunate enough to not have any serious injuries and be able to play in college.”
Tropeano continued his soccer playing days while doing his undergraduate work at Birmingham Southern. But the game, which has always been just one of a number of his passions, took a backseat after his days at BSC.
From there, he was off to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he completed medical school. His studies then took him to the University of South Alabama for his residency.
“When you do orthopedic training, residency is five years. They kind of train you in every part of it,” Tropeano says. “When you’re done with residency, you can go back and kind of specialize in an area for a year and I chose sports medicine.”
For that training, Tropeano took the opportunity to learn with two of the most prominent names in the field when he did his fellowship at the American Sports Medicine Institute with Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Larry Lemak.
While he spent two years learning and working in Pennsylvania, Tropeano credits the bulk of his education to the institutions in Birmingham and Mobile.
“We did most of our training down in Mobile and Birmingham. We basically went to Pennsylvania and played for two years,” he jokes.
While soccer was his first love, his educational journey has equipped him for a career to be able to maintain involvement with a wide range of sports and the athletes who play them.
“I played soccer forever and ever. I love being around sports,” he says of one of his assorted passions. “It’s really kind of a fun thing to do to — when you watch a kid sustain an injury — be able to get him back up and in his game.”
His love of the work and concern for the athletes in the Black Belt coupled with an idea that took its roots in his residency led he and his wife, Danielle, to start the Black and Blue Clinic, a free service open to injured players during football season.
“Some of the ideas for it came through residency. And when I did my fellowship with Dr. Lemak, we would go to the (emergency room) on Friday nights after football games and kind of wait for some of the kids to trickle in with football injuries,” he says.
Now, he extends the same opportunity to players in Marengo County and surrounding areas, opening the doors to his office on Autumn Saturdays for injured athletes.
“There’s no physician’s fee,” he explains. “It doesn’t matter if they have insurance or not. It is to look at them and get them back in the direction they need to go.”
The clinic allows him to help alleviate some of the pressure on local coaches, whose athletic budgets have no room for trainers or the like.
“This area is very under served,” Tropeano says. “The coaches are the ones having to do all of the work and they really don’t have anybody to help them out.”
The clinic is just one of a number of contributions he and Danielle are able to make to the area. But as much as he focuses on helping athletes physically, Tropeano also take a concerted interest in the young people with whom he works, often offering words of encouragement to them regarding their academic efforts. He keeps track of the athletes he meets as best he can, serving as considerably more to them than a guy in a white coat with a fancy title.
“It’s a lot of fun. To me, the hardest part is always when somebody comes in and has an injury and I have to tell them that either, ‘You’re going to have to take a break,’ or ‘Your season is over with,'” he says. “Of course, the rewarding part is when you see a kid get back out there after an injury and play as good or better than he did before and you know you were able to have a hand in getting him back out there.”
Soccer may have been his first love, but his profession, and the committed, caring way in which he goes about it, have made him a fan of several sports and an even bigger supporter of the local young men and women who play them.