A record number of people turned out Sunday for an annual dinner that local joint surgeon Dr. Ralph Salvagno holds for his patients, a gesture patients said is unheard of in the medical field.
Salvagno said he offers the dinner free to his patients to say thank you for giving him the chance to do “what I really like to do.”
Salvagno’s patients are served a chicken dinner and if the celebration kicks into high gear, there might be some dancing at the end as patients show off their flexibility.
Salvagno said 550 people came to the afternoon dinner at Elks Lodge 378 on Robinwood Drive in Hagerstown.
He said it was the biggest crowd in the 16 years he has hosted the event, which was reflected in the parking lot, which was so packed that some people had to park in a nearby grassy area.
“It kinda makes me wonder what I’m going to do next year,” Salvagno said as he surveyed the crowd.
As dinner was being served, Salvagno worked his way past tables, talking to former patients. He told one man he was looking good and the man responded by saying it was due to Salvagno’s work.
“We thank him for what he did,” said Elizabeth Kline of Myersville, Md., who had her right knee replaced by Salvagno four years ago. Kline said she went to him for help after experiencing a lot of pain in her right knee, which made it hard for her to walk.
Kline’s husband, Edgar, said he has never seen such an event held by a doctor.
Sitting across from Elizabeth Kline was her sister-in-law, Sandy Kline of Smithsburg, who has had both knees replaced by Salvagno.
Sitting beside Sandy Kline was Bea Hessong of Smithsburg, who had her left knee replaced.
Salvagno said he offers the dinner to not only thank patients for coming to his practice at 13 Western Maryland Parkway but to give patients a chance to see each other again.
Salvagno said patients get to know each other after having their surgeries and physical therapy together.
Salvagno, who has been practicing in the area for 25 years, said there have been a lot of technological advances in orthopedic surgery in the last 20 to 25 years, and he enjoys helping people enjoy independent lifestyles as long as possible.