I became an orthopaedic surgeon because...

I was a Medical Intern. In the Navy, you had to do a rotation on orthopaedics because we were all going to be assigned ship board or Marine duty the next year. I was not thrilled. My first day I was assigned to the Cast Room, the orthopaedic emergency room. My first patient was a young sailor with a badly displaced wrist fracture. I presented the case to the Ortho Resident who asked me “Well, what are you going to do next?” I was flabbergasted, “Me? I am telling you!” “Well, next year you will be on your own, on a ship, you better figure out fast what you have to do.” I picked up the well worn copy of “Rockwood and Green” the fracture textbook, and reported back to the resident to tell him the steps necessary. “Are you waiting for an invitation?” “But, I’m a flea and never saw a fracture reduced?” “Your patient is waiting.” I drew up some anesthetic, slowly wandered back to my patient and explained what I was going to do. “Please doctor, it hurts bad!” I placed the needle into the fracture, got a flush of blood and injected the anesthetic. After a few minutes to let it set, it seemed like the right thing to do, I gently took his wrist, went back, went up and went over and heard a loud crack! My patient took his wrist from me, looked at it, we were both amazed that it looked straight, and he looked at me and said, “thanks Doc, that feels so much better.” That night, I went home to my wife and told her I was going to switch from medicine to orthopaedics. To say she was stunned would be an understatement.

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

Everyday in orthopaedics is a day that you can help someone. We see so many people in pain who are looking for some assistance. Often it is merely advice on how to fight back against their injury or disease. I often feel more like a teacher or priest somedays, but every day in my life gives me a chance to help someone. Orthopaedics is a very rewarding specialty and I feel very lucky to be in such an interesting field.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Family time has always been a priority in my life, but reading and running are my two favorite hobbies. The alarm goes off at 5:15 every morning and I get the chance to run through a beautiful community on the Chesapeake Bay. Running at the same time and in the same locale gives me the unique opportunity to watch the changes in the morning sky as the seasons change. It is also fascinating to see the different flora and fauna that I encounter on my runs. In the car for many hours, I am also happily addicted to books on tape and have “read” many fascinating books that I would have been “too busy” to finish.

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

Midshipmen after 8 years in private practice although many of the Mids thought I must have also taken care of Moses since I looked so old. Private practice medicine has and will have many tough issues to face. I receive no pay for my position at the Naval Academy but I feel so much richer for the experience.

Ortho-pinions by Dr. Edward McDevitt

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