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Meet the Chief: John Uribe, M.D., Drives Evolution of Orthopedic Care

Baptist Health Orthopedic Care

John Uribe, M.D., admits he’s a bit of an adrenaline junkie. It’s a trait that has served him well as an orthopedic surgeon in the operating room, as head team physician for the Miami Dolphins and Florida Panthers and as a lifelong athlete with a love of sports such as windsurfing, tennis, free diving and mountain biking.


“Anything that gets my heart rate up, I really enjoy,” says the chief medical executive for Baptist Health Orthopedic Care. Dr. Uribe specializes in sports medicine, arthroscopic surgery and minimally invasive procedures for conditions affecting the knee, shoulder and elbow.


Orthopedic surgeon John Uribe, M.D., chief medical executive with Baptist Health Orthopedic Care, Jose Milton Foundation Endowed Chair in Orthopedics and head team physician for the Miami Dolphins and Florida Panthers


After four decades of treating professional and college athletes ― and thousands in the community ― Dr. Uribe is still passionate about his job. “I was involved in a lot of the first types of procedures to stabilize the shoulder arthroscopically. I’ve developed a different technique for fixation of grafts and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction,” he says. “It’s nice to be in the beginning of change in the paradigm of how procedures are done. The great thing about orthopedics is that it’s head to toe, cradle to grave. You just enjoy seeing people recover from your work.”




(Watch now: As head team physician for the Miami Dolphins and Florida Panthers and a lifelong athlete himself, John Uribe, M.D., admits he’s a bit of an adrenaline junkie. It’s a trait that has served him well in his storied career as an orthopedic surgeon with Baptist Health Orthopedic Care. Video by Barquin Photography.)


Discipline leads to medical career

Born in Bogata, Colombia, Dr. Uribe came to the U.S. with his parents as a toddler. He quickly discovered sports and after playing baseball and football in high school, he attended military college at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C., on a partial athletic and academic scholarship. There, a football injury moved him to the soccer field and the wrestling mat. 


He recalls the discipline required of cadets at The Citadel, and as a self-proclaimed recalcitrant kid, he often found himself on barracks lockdown. “You were basically forced to stay at your desk for the weekend, so all I did was study.” That focus on academics ― along with two brothers who were in medical school ― pointed him to medicine, and he received his medical degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Dr. Uribe was commissioned into the U.S. Army, where he was a lieutenant colonel. He was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, and then served as chief of orthopedics at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu. It was his time in the military, along with his enjoyment of sports, that spurred his interest in sports medicine.


From college athletes leads to the pros

When he came to Miami to continue his training, Dr. Uribe quickly became involved in college sports and served as head team physician for the University of Miami Hurricanes football at the height of the program’s success.


At a Hurricanes practice, Coach Don Shula approached Dr. Uribe and asked him about taking on the role of team physician for the Dolphins. Dr. Uribe was skeptical that he could handle a busy medical practice along with the care of athletes on professional and college teams that required constant weekend travel.


“Coach Shula said, ‘We’ll make it work,’ and we did. It was great to be part of the team and see the way he coached football,” Dr. Uribe recalls.


Throughout the year, and at the start of every new season, Dr. Uribe brings with him the excitement of moments such as being head team physician for the Florida Panthers during last year’s Stanley Cup Finals and a team physician for the Florida Marlins when they won the World Series.


Working with more than 10 coaches over the years, Dr. Uribe notes that each one brings a certain style to the game. And while being a team physician is serious work, he can also look back at some of his early experiences and laugh – like he does recalling an incident with Coach Johnson after he had become the Dolphins coach and his team had a practice game against the Green Bay Packers.


“I could smell the bratwurst and I was so hungry. I thought, ‘This is a pre-season game. I can sneak up into the stands and grab a bratwurst while they are playing.’ The next thing I know, a trainer is screaming at me that there’s somebody on the field with a dislocated shoulder. I was wearing these blue polyester pants. I got my bratwurst with mustard and stuck it in my pocket. I went out on the field and it was a big guy, one of our defensive ends, and I popped his shoulder back in. We’re walking back and he’s so excited because that relieves the pain right away.”


When they reached the sidelines, Coach Jimmy Johnson appeared, asking Dr. Uribe where he had been. “He looks at my pants and sees the mustard. I was like, ‘Coach, I just got hungry.’ “


Innovation reduces career-ending injuries

Especially appreciative of the physical and mental game college and pro athletes play, he has studied the injury patterns of the different sports and treated everything from rotator cuff and Achilles tendon injuries to dislocations and fractures. Thanks to the innovation in medicine and the rapid evolution of orthopedics, many of the same injuries that ended careers a decade or two ago no longer stop athletes from being at the top of their game. And the same level of sports medicine offered to professional athletes at Baptist Health Orthopedic Care is available to everyone in the community, Dr. Uribe adds.


“You’re constantly learning. The injuries aren’t always the same and the patients are all different. Different ages, different activity levels, different requirements for their quality of life,” he says.


He appreciates South Florida’s diverse population and also respects the unique needs of every patient. “What you want to get from the patient is how does this injury or condition truly affect them. Sometimes, even though you can fix it, perhaps the best thing for that individual is to consider staying with it and rehabbing it to make the other muscles stronger so they can compensate, because the body is pretty amazing. It can compensate for a lot of things.”


A personal philosophy

As chairman of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Dr. Uribe has relished his time teaching ― something he hopes to continue. The father of three is also proud of his children who are spread out around the country. One son is a Navy SEAL, the other is in medical sales, and his daughter is pursuing a career in finance.


At an age when most people are already retired, Dr. Uribe shares his philosophy: “You’re either learning, you’re working or you’re doing something you enjoy,” he relates. “I’ll tell you from what I’ve seen in my profession, life is really fragile. You never know what’s going to happen the next day. You can fall off that bike and break your shoulder or hurt your back to the point where you’re really limited. So, when opportunities come up to do things, I’ll do them. I think the most valuable thing we have is our time.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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