I became an orthopaedic surgeon because...
I can recall the exact moment that I unknowingly committed to becoming an orthopaedic surgeon.
My father was an obstetrician so I grew up in a medical household and my hobby was building models of all types: ships, planes and cars. I enjoyed working with my hands and found youthful fulfillment in admiring the finished products.
One day in the early 60s – I was likely in middle school – the front page of my hometown paper in Pontiac, MI ran a black and white photo of a woman in her hospital bed in New York City, recovering from a new operation: hip replacement. That image was likely with me when I chose Pre-Med instead of Architecture at Notre Dame, and when the faculty mentor assigned to me in medical school was Dr. Larry Matthews, whose Spherocentric™ model knee had just made the cover of Scientific American, and it remains with me when I make rounds on my patients each morning. As much as that operation likely had a profound effect on the life of that woman in New York, it had just as profound an effect on the life of a young kid in Michigan.
What is the most rewarding part of being an orthopaedic surgeon?
That’s easy. While the practice of orthopaedic surgery has given me so much to be grateful for, there is no feeling like the one you get when a patient says “Thank you for giving me my life back.” My practice is primarily hip and knee replacement, and it’s no exaggeration to say that I hear that at least one time each week.
As orthopaedic surgeons, we know that we improve the quality of our patients’ lives just as do other practitioners of the healing arts, but in orthopaedics we’ve been gifted with the tools to do it so abruptly that we hear from the hip replacement patient on the morning after surgery “I haven’t felt this good in three months” or from the post-op knee replacement patient who only a few weeks after the surgery says “I can’t believe that I waited so long to have this done.” There is no feeling like that.
What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I enjoy working in the yard and spending time with my family. We’re blessed with five young grandsons and with everyone living close geographically. I enjoy reading, golfing with my friends, going to the ball park, and I’m always up for a day trip to southwest Michigan or a weekend in Chicago.
In what volunteer activities or efforts do you engage that mean the most to you and those you serve?
For over 30 years I’ve stood on the sidelines of a local high school football field on Friday nights, and for nearly as long I’ve been team physician for all sports at a small NAIA college here in town. The greatest time commitment has been taking care of our town’s minor league baseball team for the 26 seasons it has been in existence, but while you might think that took me away from family, I’ve probably spent more time with my children at the ballpark than we’d probably have spent together had I been home. Now grandpa gets quality summer evenings with a whole new generation. Most recently I’ve been provided with the opportunity and privilege to serve on the Academy’s Board of Councilors and try in a small way to give back to the profession that has given me so much.