I became an orthopaedic surgeon because...
I became an Orthopaedic Surgeon because it was a special blend of fixing things and caring for people. In college at Columbia University, as an engineering student with limited finances, the best work study job available at the time was working for a research group at Columbia Presbyterian’s Babies Hospital. We studied Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, ‘SIDS’. As a chemical engineering major, I was involved in understanding the affect of carbon dioxide on breathing feed back in babies. I worked on computer programs, ran tests and met with the physicians regularly. The experience redirected my life path toward medical school. At Yale School of Medicine, I was taken with the science, mechanics, physics, problem solving and three dimensional reasoning required in orthopaedics. Soon it was clear a career in Orthopaedics was in my future.
What is the most rewarding part of being an orthopaedic surgeon?
The ability to restore quality of life, dignity and happiness to the patients who have had a part of their lives altered by an orthopaedic injury. It could be a worker that may lose their job if not mended, an athlete that is entering the last year of high level competition and injured in training, a child with a broken bone or weekend warrior. They all present a challenge and personal rewards. In particular, after being in practice for over 20 years, seeing my young patients grow up, following their life stories, and having patients bring in their children with new injuries has created some of the most special moments of my day. I am reminded of a teenaged girl who fractured her tibia a few days before her high school prom. Tears were everywhere and there were not enough tissues to contain them. She was so upset that she, in her mind, was not going to be able to attend the prom. As I applied the long leg cast, I explained how she could go to the prom with the cast on and her friends will have a great time decorating it with color, ribbons and bows. I told her she was going to have a great time because she will be special as the only one in a cast and matching dress. She insisted she was not going. Yet, something sunk in, her friends did decorate her cast, she did go and had a great time. It was wonderful but only half of the story. Years later, she returned with a wrist sprain. On asking how she was, she explained how her life changed that day. She learned that no matter how physically impaired she felt, life does go on and good things can still happen. In short, a physical impairment does not change who you are if you don’t let it. She then told me something that gave me goose bumps. She was getting a degree in Psychology. She decided, remembering her prom, to work with spinal cord injury patients and help them rediscover their lives.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy golf, walking my dog, traveling with my family, creative writing and inventing. Each year I write an orthopaedic new year’s card for my patients. Last year it was “Sur-ger-ay” to the tune of yesterday (see below). I have written a novel that is a work in progress and two books for my patients and the general public. My first book is “The Knee and Shoulder Handbook for all of us” a guide to knee and shoulder problems, tips on how to get the most out of your office visit with your orthopaedic surgeon and some notes of prevention of injuries. My new book is “I’ve fallen and I can get up,” a head to toe guide to causes of falls and fall prevention. Inventing is my other passion, I have many inventions for orthopaedic surgery to make it better and more cost effective. I hold five patents including one on improving internet search. Surg-er-ay Yesterday, all my ailments seemed so far away Now it looks as though they’re here to stay Oh, I believe in yesterday Suddenly, the doctor said it just had to be There are nurses hanging over me Oh, surgery came suddenly Why did my arm break I don’t know, Doc wouldn’t say I did something wrong Now I will have sur-ger-ay-a-a-a Yesterday, football was an easy game to play Now I need a sling to hide away Oh, I believe in sur-ger-ay Why’d I dislocate I don’t know, doc wouldn’t say My arm looks so wrong Now I long for sur-ger-ay-a-a-a Yesterday, football was an easy game to play Now I need a sling to hide away Oh, I believe in sur-ger-ay ‘Nother day, football will be the fun game to play I’ll be well and hide my sling a-way Oh, I believe in sur-ger-ay O-h, I believe in sur-ger-ay
In what volunteer activities or efforts do you engage that mean the most to you and those you serve?
Volunteer Trauma team : When first back in New Haven, I was a founding member of the Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Orthopaedic Trauma team. Medical Missions: I was a volunteer surgeon on a medical mission to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The team visited underserved areas and set up a clinic in a domed stadium to care for displaced residents of New Orleans without health care. In 2008, I visited Cuba and Bolivia, Cuba on a humanitarian mission and in Bolivia to see first-hand the role of “Save the Children,” in the poorest-of-poor countries in South America. In 2011, I traveled to Haiti and performed surgeries on both children and adults in need of orthopaedic care at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital. I also served on the game organizing committee for the 1995 Special Olympics, caring for special athletes from over 105 countries. Later, I became the team physician for the New Haven Knights professional hockey team. Teaching: I have been a member of the clinical faculty at Yale University school of medicine since 1989. I enjoy teaching the residence, nurses, physician associates and staff. I awarded the Yale Residents’ Teaching Award.
Ortho-pinions by Dr. Alan M. Reznik
- Survival Genes and You
- How ‘Mother Nature’ helps us heal
- Why is my knee still stiff and mobility limited 8 weeks after meniscus surgery?