Dr Distasio Retires after 23 Years with SMOC

The room filled with conversation and delicious smells at the River Stone Chophouse on June 17th, 2019. Everyone was in good spirits, conversing with one another and enjoying a glass of their preferred drink. Doctors, administrators, physician assistants and their respectable loved ones gathered around after their long work shifts to take the time to say good-bye to their dear friend, Dr. Anthony J. Distasio, who was retiring from SMOC after 23 years of service as the Orthopaedic Trauma Specialist. 

Many of the SMOC’s doctors and close friends of Dr. Distasio took turns in sharing their experiences with those in attendance.  

“He’s not a great asset to us, but to all of Hampton Roads,” Dr. David Goss, a spine expert in his own right, states as he remembers his time working with Dr. Distasio. “Thank you for all that you’ve done for me, SMOC, and Hampton Roads.”

“None of us will remember trophies, accolades, etc; but we can all tell a story about Dr. Distasio,” Dr. Anthony Bevilacqua, a fellow trauma surgeon, chuckles when reminiscing. 

“When I ask someone who their doctor is and they tell me Dr. D, there is always a story that comes next and it’s always entertaining,” Les Hall, a close friend of Dr. Distasio shares. “These stories aren’t about his awards or accolades, they’re about his care and the impression he made in their lives. He made an impression because he cares.”

Dr. Distasio will spend the remainder of the year enjoying his well-deserved time off with his family, but we wanted to take the time to remember his successful career as the respected surgeon he grew to become. 

Dr. Anthony J. Distasio was destined to be a doctor, from the moment his parents (both army medics in the Korean War) placed a doctor’s bag in his hands when he was just a toddler. As he grew older, and became more involved in sports, this influence radiated from another direction: the orthopaedic surgeons’ that cared for him after his many sports injuries. 

“These doctor’s that took care of me were (mostly) orthopaedic surgeons. It was pretty cool they understood me, as a person, and what made me tick.” Dr. Distastio said. 

Years passed and Dr. Distasio attended Georgetown University, earning his medical degree. He then, boarded the USS Saipan as the medical officer, followed by his advancement in the orthopaedic surgery and pediatric orthopaedics program at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth. When asked what the difference was between the issues and injuries from the military members versus civilians, Dr. Distasio answered, “There are a lot of similarities when it comes to Sports Medicine patients versus military patients: both tend to be young, healthy, active adults that tear their ACL’s or break their ankles. However, the after care is very different, though some principles applied, in cases like motorcycle and vehicle accidents.”

Being an adrenaline junkie, Dr. Distasio found his calling in trauma. He pursued his fellowship training at the Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. However, his passion for orthopaedics brought him back and he returned to Naval Medical Center as Director of the Orthopaedic Traumatology Division.  

Revered as one of the region’s leading “trauma experts”, Dr. Distasio focused on complex fracture management and trauma patients with multiple injuries. He stated the reason behind this focus was the fact that “no two patients were alike. You must use all your tools in your skill set, surgically and mentally, to help them most and harm them the least. You can’t do much initially (because they’re badly injured), but this tests our skills, doing just enough to help them, while thinking outside of the box.”

Dr. Distasio joined the SMOC practice in 1996, bringing along with him his extensive orthopaedic experience in advanced arthroscopic surgeries and was the first physician to perform minimally invasive total knee replacement in southeast Virginia. When asked about the motivation behind this accomplishment and the importance behind it, Dr. Distasio stated, “That is the wonderful thing about medicine: we are always looking to do things better, faster, and aim towards smaller incisions, as the recovery is faster and less painful for the patient. As I have matured over time and have learned the pearls and pitfalls to work through all kinds of incisions, I have worked on mastering my skill set. Minimally invasive surgery is always the end goal. ”

During his time at SMOC, Dr. Distasio claims his most meaningful moment was the SMOC practice developing its presence in Suffolk. “Other (orthopaedic) practices weren’t happy about our expansion, but we became a driving force in the (Suffolk) area. We had so many victories and losses with patients. They (patients) enriched my life and I hope I enriched theirs. I consider many of them my friends.” 

Another passion of Dr. Distasio’s has been education.  During his career, he would allow for students to shadow him in and out of the operating rooms, as well as offer his insights during lectures. His passion is so strong and palpable, Les Hall, alongside the Allfirst employees, honored him with setting up a scholarship through the Suffolk Foundation. According to Mr. Hall, the scholarship will be named as the Dr. Anthony J. Distasio II Scholarship for Health Care Education. The initial $25,000 donation will allow for an annual $1000 scholarship to be awarded, perpetually in the doctor’s name, to a student pursuing a career in “hands-on” healthcare, such as nurses, doctors, physical therapists, etc. Mr. Hall presented Dr. Distasio with the scholarship during his retirement party, much to the doctor’s surprise. “I’ve gotten to know (Les) through the years and he understands my passion for teaching and education. He gets me as a person and for him to put this (scholarship) together, I can’t believe it. I can’t wrap my head around it!” 

Dr. Distasio’s patients have nothing to worry about, going forward. Although Dr. Distasio is no longer with SMOC, he shares full confidence in his peers. “There is so much depth and variety in the skill sets of the doctors at (SMOC). I have full confidence in the (SMOC) doctors. There’s a seamless transition in skills. They may not have my personality,” Dr. Distasio chuckles, “but (the patients) will have doctors they will get along with in Sports Medicine.”

With having spare time, Dr. Distasio looks forward to the simplicity in everyday errands. “The simple things in life (post office, laundry) are therapeutic for me,” he says. “I will be able to do routine things I couldn’t before. Just having spare time is truly something to look forward to.” Besides his everyday errands, Dr. Distasio will spend more time with his family, including his grandkids and a new puppy. 

Looking back, Dr. Distasio has had a “great career. “I have worked hard at multiple jobs and pushed myself as hard as I could. With over 10 thousand surgeries, I have run into people who I have helped from many years ago. Seeing them and knowing that I helped them, that’s a dream come true.” 

On behalf of everyone at SMOC, good luck to you, Dr. Distasio, in your future endeavors and thank you for all that you had done for each and everyone of us!

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