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Growing up in South Lebanon, Bobby Gallo couldn’t comprehend a life without sports. But not even he could’ve imagined the path his life would take.
In retrospect, it all makes sense now. Not only is he still connected to sports, but he’s been blessed with an opportunity to give back, he’s making a difference in his community and he’s helping local student-athletes extract the absolute most from their scholastic experiences.
It’s Dr. Robert Gallo now, professor of Orthopedic Sports Medicine at Penn State’s College of Medicine in Hershey. A 1994 graduate of Cedar Crest High School and a resident of Palmyra, Gallo is part of the sports medicine teams – once referred to as the “team doctor” – for Northern Lebanon, Lebanon, Annville-Cleona, Lebanon Valley College, and the Harrisburg Senators.
In short, he is living his dream, or reality’s version of it.
“As a kid, sports were my whole life,” said Gallo. “I learned how to read and do math on the back of baseball cards. I just couldn’t imagine a life without some sort of sports in it.
“I honestly struggled in college (with the choice of) becoming a sportswriter or a doctor,” he continued. “I think it was kind of weird trying decide between the two. But I think they’re more alike than you would think. In each one you’re constantly learning and you’re meeting with people. But in medicine, I feel like I have more personal input into the wellbeing of people.”
Obviously, Gallo made the right decision.
As a professor of Orthopedic Sports Medicine, there are four main components to Gallo’s duties – teaching, clinical, surgical and community service. But what piques Gallo’s professional interest is the people.
“I think it’s the relationships,” he said, when pressed for his favorite aspect of what he does. “My best day is interviewing college students for medical school. You’re seeing people who want to help other people. I sometimes use that to refresh myself. But I enjoy all three components of my work.
“It’s not like I’m not being compensated,” he added. “But it’s so cool when you can help people out. It’s important to me. I do derive very much joy from going to schools that don’t have as many resources as others. But they’re all important to me.”
Gallo has gained a reputation as one of the area’s most knowledgeable experts in the treatment and study of anterior cruciate ligament injuries, one of the most common injuries in all of scholastic sports. Over his 14-year career, he has performed over 700 ACL surgeries, many of which were suffered by Lebanon County student-athletes.
“To be able to restore someone’s ability to play, especially after an ACL tear, it’s pretty awesome,” said Gallo. “Then to go to games and see kids who tore their ACLs out there competing again, it’s so rewarding. When they go to college, I tell them ‘Keep me in the loop.’ I think it’s so cool to see their progress at the next level. Some will use it as inspiration to go on and do something in the health-care field.
“I do derive enjoyment from going out and helping on the sidelines (at local athletic events). People get to see you and people get to know you. I have a connection to and an affinity for Lebanon County.”
After graduating from Penn State’s School of Medicine in 2002, Gallo completed his orthopedic surgery residency at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh and a sports medicine and shoulder fellowship at The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Gallo, who starred as a tennis player during his Cedar Crest years, is also poised to become the director for the orthopedic residency program at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
“I think part of the notion of going into medicine is to help people, but it’s also because you want to learn,” said Gallo, 46. “Those (the advanced schooling years) were some of my most fulfilling times of my life. You’re seeing so many good and bad things. You’re see trauma all the time and you see people’s live change instantly forever. It definitely makes you less of a risk taker.
“My mom was an administrator at the Lebanon Valley General Hospital (later the Hyman S. Caplan Pavilion),” he continued. “I was always exposed to medicine. Those were big years for me. I was always surrounded by that, and I got good grades, so you’re kind of pushed in that direction.”
There’s an adage in sports that says hard workers make their own good luck. Still a young man, Gallo is very much on top of his game and very much at the top of his profession. There exist many remaining goals for him to achieve.
“As you get older, you start thinking about your legacy and how people will remember you,” said Gallo. “I have been incredible lucky to be surrounded by great people who taken time to support me. I have great parents; I went to great schools and I’ve been incredibly lucky. And I’ve had great partners and colleagues. It’s not easy to find an academic sports medicine job. I’m indebted to Hershey.”
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