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Ken Zaslav

Mixing surgery with entrepreneurialism 

Virginia doctor is a success in and out of the operating room

by Tania Rahman

An internationally known orthopedic surgeon and businessman, Dr. Ken Zaslav '79, is not one to dismiss the source of his opportunities. "Harpur gives you the ability to stretch yourself academically but to also have many experiences now, so you can figure out what you want to do," says Zaslav, who returned to Harpur College in April to speak with pre-health students. "It's a unique place."

Zaslav began his multidisciplinary career roaming the school with as much confusion about his future as would any student today. Back then, he aspired to be a musician.

"I was a biology major, but I spent most of my time with music things," the Brooklyn native says. "I was the chairman of the concert committee, Binghamton Concerts, where we ran all the programming."

In addition to becoming president of the concert committee, Zaslav was part of Harpur's Ferry, the volunteer student ambulance group, as well as a member of WHRW, the campus radio station.

"We had great concerts," he recalls. "We had Hall and Oates, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello and the Talking Heads from 1977 to 1979."

Zaslav did not immediately pursue medicine after finishing his undergraduate career. In the period before he entered medical school, he spent his days acting.

"I ended up trying out for 'Grease' and got cast as the lead," he says. "Before med school, I did 'Grease' six nights a week. It was a lot of fun, but I realized at the end that I didn't have the voice for theater and didn't see it as a career."

Among Zaslav's accomplishments is performing the first cartilage transplant in Virginia in 1996. Stockholm-based medical practitioner Lars Peterson invented a way to clone articular cartilage, and this transplant technology came to the United States in 1995. Zaslav's interest in the matter of cartilage was so strong that he persisted in cartilage clinical research. Today, he is considered an expert on the subject. His role as treasurer of the International Cartilage Repair Society offers him the chance to travel worldwide to teach on the subject, an opportunity he commits to several times a year.

Zaslav is also the president of Advanced Orthopaedics, a private practice group in Richmond where he primarily performs knee and shoulder surgery. These surgeries are often as a result of a sports or dance injury.

Despite being involved in a variety of activities, Zaslav never steered away from the idea of becoming an orthopedic surgeon.

"I liked fixing things and getting people back to function," he says. "I thought orthopedics was very exciting because you get to spend time with patients, and treat them non-operatively with strength training and prevention."

After graduating from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, he went on to complete his residency at Stony Brook University Hospital. Since finishing his fellowship in 1988, he has committed to sports medicine and shoulder surgery, serving as clinical professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.

"It started as an orthopedic group of four surgeons and now we're 20 surgeons and just over 200 employees," he says about his group's development. "We went from a company with $3 million in revenue to $30 million in revenue, and as medicine changed, we added other services. We built our own surgery center, physical therapy department, our own brace company, and all of this became a part of the corporation."

Once established in Richmond, Zaslav turned to entrepreneurialism and giving back to his community. Determined to introduce New York City charm to the scene, he and a friend entered the business world by purchasing an abandoned hospital.

"You had this beautiful building that was built in 1910 that was sitting vacant around the corner from my house," he says. "A friend and I bought it and developed it into the first Upper West Side-'doorman type' apartments."

The luxury building, named One Monument Avenue, opened in late 2003 and proved to be a hit in the region. It joined a list of similar successful developments Zaslav took part in, including Richmond Ballet's Center for Dance and the Cartilage Restoration Center.

Zaslav traces the roots of his surgical and entrepreneurial successes to his upbringing in Brooklyn. His immigrant parents raised three successful sons: The youngest, Stephen, attended Washington University and became an attorney, while the middle child, David, a 1982 graduate of Binghamton University, is CEO of Discovery Communications.

For Zaslav, being married for 26 years with two children is his greatest accomplishment. Even though Zaslav has a hectic career, he says family is priority.

"There's no method; you really do have to make time for your kids," he says. "My wife, who is a PhD and works as well, is by far the primary parent. She's been good about being the person who is the primary for the kids."

As a surgeon, Zaslav says he has great admiration for his patients — especially dancers — who commit their lives to their passion. He stresses the importance of possessing passion for your work to Harpur College students.

"Take advantage of the variety of opportunities you have at this college," he says. "Don't get tied up in trying to get into grad school. Use this time to develop your other talents. (Binghamton) really offers you the ability to do many things."

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Last Updated: 3/1/17