Career Choices

Richard Illgen, Orthopedic Surgeon

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Richard Illgen, Orthopedic Surgeon


Undergraduate Education: University of Notre Dame
Medical School: University of Chicago
Residency: Harvard Combined Orthopedic Program
Fellowship: Massachusetts General Hospital

Career Description

I am actively involved in the clinical care of patients as well as research.  Regarding clinical care, I perform hip replacement and knee replacement surgery.  Hip replacement surgery now includes new hip resurfacing procedures described in this website.  Approximately one and a half days a week I spend in the research lab.  During this time, I do both basic science and clinical research.  Both arms of these research efforts are geared towards improving outcome for patients after hip and knee replacement surgery.  My typical week involves surgery on Monday and Tuesday, research on Wednesday and half the day on Thursday.  I then see patients in my clinical office on Thursday afternoon and all day on Friday.  In addition to this I on call for trauma cases here at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals every third Tuesday and one weekend every three months.

My educational background began at the University of Notre Dame for undergraduate training.  I attended the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and then completed my orthopedic training at the Harvard Combined Orthopedic Program.  Finally, I completed fellowship training in adult reconstructive surgery focusing on hip and knee replacement under the direction of Dr. William Harris at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. 

My decision to pursue an orthopedics career stemmed from a combined interest in science and the desire to provide service to individuals to improve their lives.  The best part of my job is observing directly the significant impact that surgical intervention can have to improve the quality of life for individuals with hip and knee arthritis.  The best part of the research portion of my job involves discovering new ways in which implants can be utilized to improve the quality of life for patients and minimize the risks that these implants can fail over time. 

The worst part of my job is that it requires a fair amount of time energy and effort that takes away from some of my family life.  Balancing my academic and family obligations continues to be a challenge.  However, with effort, one can achieve a balance and I currently feel that my academic and family life are quite fulfilling.  Medicine in general has changed substantially over the last ten years and will likely change even further in the next ten years.  The amount of technology that is incorporated into the daily care of patients is quite amazing.  Our abilities to deal with problems now are much better than they were ten years ago and will be even better in the next ten years.