Northwestern School of Medicine, Graduated 1979
University of Rochester, Strong Memorial Hospital, Internship and Orthopedic Residency
University Hospital Case Western Reserve University – 1-year fellowship
In most cases, a patient with severe hip pain will first go to see a primary care, or family, doctor. The primary doctor might take an x-ray and will often start the patient on some type of pain relieving, anti-arthritic medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen. S/he might also send the patient to see a physical therapist. If you are a patient with early arthritis of the hip, this might be all that is required to make you comfortable and allow you to resume your activities. However, if your symptoms keep getting worse, and the pain becomes severe, an orthopedic surgeon might need to become involved in your care.
My job as an orthopedic surgeon is to try and get people back to where they are pain free and can perform the functions that make their lives enjoyable. Sometimes this requires changes in the medications and physical therapy. Other times, it involves an operation, such as a partial hip replacement, some type of resurfacing hip replacement, or a total hip replacement. Worldwide, the most common operation performed for this problem is a total hip replacement.
To become an orthopedic surgeon, a doctor goes on to train for approximately 5 to 6 years after medical school. As a result, most orthopedic surgeons do not start practice until they are 31 or 32 years old. A typical week for me involves 2 to 3 days of surgery and 2 days in the office. I’m also ‘on call’ to handle emergency cases such as fractures and other injuries suffered in car accidents. And, as a member of the faculty at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, I teach medical students and supervise orthopedic residents. The residents and I meet regularly to discuss cases and review the current orthopedic literature.
While I am in the office, I see patients and evaluate them for various problems. I treat quite a few patients with joint pain. Many of them have problems in both the hips and knees. I try to see what I can do to make them feel better. A typical work day starts at 6:30 a.m. and ends between 4:30 pm and 5:00 pm, except on those days when I have emergency cases. Then I might well end up operating in the evening. This is all part of an orthopedic surgeon’s day.
The great thing about orthopedics is that everyone loves doing it. I work with an outstanding team of surgical partners and support personnel. My job is great. I work very hard and have long hours, but I get tremendous satisfaction from seeing patients return to a pain free life. Within weeks of surgery, many patients will say that they can’t believe that they can do a lot of the same activities that they had been unable to perform for 5 to 10 years.
In addition to joint replacements, there are many other specialties within the practice of orthopedics, including tumor orthopedics, pediatrics, sports medicine and back surgery. There are a lot of new and interesting things happening in these areas, as well as in joint replacement. Each involves a different approach to the patient but the goal is always the same: we want to make it possible for a patient to live a comfortable and productive life. Here at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, we do cartilage research, total joint research, spine research and sports medicine research.
Researchers are investigating how to make better joint implants for people who have arthritic joints. We have had a number of studies over the years looking at different types of hip replacements and various kinds of bone transplantation in order to improve the outcome of certain types of very complicated hip and tumor surgery.
Some of the research going on in sports medicine is in reconstructing ligaments and tendons to try to let people be more active in certain types of sports. Most sports teams have an orthopedic surgeon on the sidelines to evaluate the players directly on the field. Rather than sending the injured player to the hospital, the orthopedic surgeon can immediately perform an exam and determine the severity of the injury.
In joint replacement, I customize the selection of biomaterials (metals, plastics and ceramics) for each patient. And, in hip replacements, I typically use a technique known as minimally invasive joint replacement, which allows patients to get up and walk on the same day as surgery. The patients rehab very quickly and the final result is that patients are usually pain free and really appreciate what has been done for them
If researchers ever cure arthritis, joint replacements could become unnecessary. The bad news is that arthritis seems to be a part of aging that many people cannot escape. The good news is that in the last 30 years, joint replacements have provided one of the greatest improvements in the quality of life in arthritic patients. I think there is still a lot of research to be done in orthopedics and joint replacement. The best is probably yet to come.