I became an orthopaedic surgeon because...

My friend and cycling teammate in graduate school hounded me to do a rotation in orthopaedics. I didn’t think I was interested and had already entered the match for another specialty. But, I was fortunate to go to Denver and do a rotation at the trauma center there. On July 4th, while supporting both legs of a man who had crashed his motorcycle and had pushed both leg bones through the skin as well as breaking his pelvis and injuring both arms, I realized it. This was what I wanted to do. Every case is a little bit different, I have to think on my feet and I get to meet most of my patients on one of the worst days of their lives. There is never a dull day, some people are thankful and others are angry. Most people want to get well and they remember that I was there for them and cheered them through some tough times and we progress through their recovery together. Seeing people overcome and being a part of their recovery is why I became an orthopaedic surgeon.

What is the most rewarding part of being an orthopaedic surgeon?

Being a part of people’s lives and helping them achieve their goals is the most rewarding part of being an orthopaedic surgeon. I get to meet most of my patients after a bad injury and we become a team as we work together through surgery, rehab and recovery. Many of them need multiple surgeries and sometimes they need bone grafts and surgeries even years after their injuries. Being there for them, not just as a surgeon, but as as a coach and a cheerleader and a fellow human being as they progress creates real meaning for them as well as for me. Watching a patient walk down the aisle to get married after 18 months in an external fixator is a reward that I cannot quantify. Sitting quietly with a family who understands that their elderly mother may never walk and discussing whether to fix her broken hip or not in a way that dignifies her desires is something that touches you deeply. To care for others as I would wish to be cared for comes as close to perfection as I can imagine and everyday, caring for injured people allows me to do just that.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Outside the hospital I love to explore. Both physically, by hiking and skiing and cycling and generally being active and doing new things. And intellectually by reading and seeking out new experiences and cultures. Both my husband and I love the outdoors and have infected the kids with a love of tromping through the woods, climbing, hiking, skiing, biking, camping and all things outdoors. Last year, against the advice of our travel agent, the adoption agency and our social worker, we traveled as a family, accompanied by our newly adopted daughter, from southern India to Delhi by train. For 42 hours we got a close up view of India, from the high-rises of Bangalore to the backside of Delhi from the vantage of the train. It was a wonderful experience for us; we played games and read books and thoroughly enjoyed our sambhar and idli on the train. Seeing close up the conditions under which others live was wonderfully eye-opening for us, adults and children alike. Gaining perspective and staying active, both mentally and physically keeps us all charged.

In what volunteer activities or efforts do you engage that mean the most to you and those you serve?

I have been involved in volunteer work nearly continuously since junior high school. One experience that stands out includes working at the AIDS Foundation Hotline in Houston, TX for the crisis center there just as the AIDS epidemic was reaching its zenith. Since becoming an orthopaedic surgeon, most of my efforts center around education and service. I have worked for years with both orthopaedics overseas and SIGN-Fracture Care International for many years, serving on the boards of both. I have traveled overseas yearly for the past 11 years and continue to be active in both organizations. I have also volunteered locally by guest teaching in middle school, high school and community college settings. Being a guest speaker allows me to interact, connect with students and help give inspiration to students wondering about fulfilling careers. While direct patient care is always rewarding, one of the most satisfying things I find is the ability to teach and then empower the surgeons in Nepal through SIGN-Fracture Care International to treat their own patients and get them walking. To date, SIGN has provided implants and surgery to more than 120,000 patients at no cost and to be a part of that sort of impact is really rewarding.