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Authors > Dan A. Zlotolow, MD

“We didn’t want the art forms of casting and splinting to disappear with the generation that’s going to be retiring in the next ten or twenty years.” – Dr. Dan Zlotolow

Preserving an Art Form

Dr. Stephen Thomson and I met when I was his attending and he was a resident with me at the University of Maryland. I used to teach the casting workshops to the residents where I would show them how to put on casts and splints. I had done similar workshops when I was a resident and so I brought that with me to the University of Maryland when I became an attending. Dr. Thomson wanted me to put together a pamphlet with the techniques that I had accumulated over time and was teaching. At the time, there wasn’t a text that explained how to do splinting and casting in a simplified way. When I was a resident, I basically learned on my own. It’s a hit-or-miss, trial-by-fire type of learning. You learn from your senior residents, of course, but overall you’re kind of guessing what to do. I did have the privilege of working with a lot of talented people: old-school people who knew how were true craftsmen when it came to casts. Fifty years ago, you had to know how to put on a good cast because that was the mainstay of treatment for many injuries. One of the big drives for writing the Handbook of Splinting and Casting was that we didn’t want those techniques to die with that generation of clinicians. We didn’t want the art forms of casting and splinting to disappear. Their wisdom, their legacy, needed to endure for the benefit of patients in the future.

Who is the Handbook of Splinting and Casting for?

The Handbook of Splinting and Casting is for anybody who is a first line practitioner, who encounters fractures or injuries of the musculoskeletal system, and frankly anyone who would ever need to put on a splint or a cast. We see a lot of badly made splints and casts in our office. We see people harmed by bad casting and splinting: splints that immobilize too much, or don’t immobilize enough, or ace bandages that are put on too tight, among others. I think that the techniques that are outlined in the Handbook of Splinting and Casting are fairly easy to achieve for any dedicated practitioner. Our goal in writing this book was really to try to improve the standard of care for casts and splints so that patients can be better served.

Why Medicine? Why Orthopedics? Why kids?

I’d always been interested in science but for me science as I learned it in college was too devoid of human contact. I wanted to do something that had scientific rigor but also involved creativity and involved working with people. So that’s why I went into medicine. As for why I went into orthopedics, I think its because I have a bias towards mechanics based on my parents being architects. I enjoy the structural elements of orthopedics. The reason I chose hand surgery overall is that I think it’s the most mechanical of subspecialties and allows for a lot of creativity in the field. Pediatric orthopedics is great because you really can make a difference in somebody’s whole life going forward. We see a lot of kids who can’t feed themselves, can’t go to the bathroom by themselves, and after we treat them, they have a completely different life. We get to see them progress from very early ages and we see our work mature as they mature. It’s a fantastic job. There are very few jobs where you get hugs from kids all day.


Dan A. Zlotolow, MD is an Associate Professor of Orthopaedics at the Temple University School of Medicine and attending surgeon at the Shriners Hospital for Children of Philadelphia.  He is an active member of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, and the Manus Club.  Dr. Zlotolow is co-author of Handbook of Splinting and Casting, a title in Elsevier’s Mobile Medicine series.

Dr. Zlotolow graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and completed his orthopaedic residency at Montefoire Medical Center in New York following a clinical research fellowship.  He performed fellowships in adult and pediatric hand surgery at St. Luke’s/Roosevelt Medical Center in New York City and at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas.

Board certified in hand surgery; Dr. Zlotolow received many awards and honors during his training, including the 2003 and 2004 Selznick Memorial Research Presentation Award. He has an extensive research portfolio and a number of open clinical trials. In addition to authoring over 30 book chapters, he has published in numerous journals, including Spine, Orthopaedics, the Journal of Hand Surgery, Hand Clinics, and the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Other awards include American Society for Surgery of the Hand Young Leader 2007, American Foundation for Surgery of the Hand Clinical Research Mentorship, and Maryland Orthopaedic Association Research Presentation Award.  In his leisure time, Dr. Zlotolow enjoys singing with the Haverford College Chorale.

At Shriners Hospital, his office serves as an international referral center for complex congenital, traumatic, and reconstructive problems of the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand.  Research and clinical interests of the practice focus on children with congenital differences, pediatric fractures, and restoration of upper extremity function after brain, nerve, or spinal cord injury.