Meet Michigan Medicine: Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

January 24, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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If you’ve watched any U-M varsity sporting event, it’s likely that you’ve seen a member of the Michigan Medicine Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. That’s because faculty and athletic trainers are on-site at every game, ready to treat potential injuries.

But sports medicine is just a fraction of the services provided by this valuable team.

Here’s what you may not know about orthopaedic surgery, which — make no bones about it — offers vital services to Michigan Medicine patients across their lifespan.

The team, the team, the team

Orthopaedic surgery is comprised of hundreds of employees in a number of different specialties all related to treating the skeletal system.

“We have 57 faculty and nearly 400 staff members,” said Dana Burkley, the department’s chief administrator. Among them are surgeons, non-operative musculoskeletal specialists, physical therapists, athletic trainers, advanced practice professionals, clinical, research and administrative staff.

“We all take a comprehensive team approach to helping our patients — ensuring that they get the best care possible,” said Burkley.

The employees value teamwork outside of the department, as well.

“We have great relationships with colleagues in plastic surgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation, radiology, rheumatology, neurosurgery and so many other departments,” Burkley said. “We often refer patients to those areas, or have them referred to us. At Michigan Medicine, we’re surrounded by talented people, so we all take it to heart to take advantage of all of these resources.”

Specialized experts

Ortho’s services are divided into eight subcategories: hip and knee reconstruction, pediatrics, trauma services, spine services, foot and ankle, hand surgery, musculoskeletal oncology, and sports medicine.

The most common procedures are hip and knee replacements and arthroscopic shoulder surgeries. But experts also treat congenital bone conditions, along with emergency procedures such as broken bones or other traumatic injuries.

Often, patients are referred to orthopaedic surgery by physicians outside the department, but that’s not a requirement.

“If patients contact our team directly, we have call center representatives who can guide them to the appropriate place for their care — whether that’s meeting with our surgeons or being treated non-surgically by other specialties,” Burkley said. “Surgery is considered a patient’s last resort and we will never operate on a patient unless it’s absolutely medically necessary.”

A strong backbone

One of the unique facets of orthopaedic surgery is the impact its members make in the community, with pediatric and oncology care provided at MidMichigan and in Marquette, Michigan, and trauma services provided at St Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor.

Athletic trainers also serve high school sports teams across Washtenaw and Livingston counties. Additionally, they provide coverage for USA Hockey practices and games, which are based in Plymouth, Michigan.

Finally, the department plays a major role in the Michigan Center for Human Athletic Medicine and Performance, or MCHAMP, providing service to U-M athletics, Eastern Michigan University, along with professional teams including the Detroit Lions and Detroit Tigers.

The center is comprised of experts across 30 disciplines at the university who are there to “treat the athlete in all of us.” That means MCHAMP helps individuals rehab following an injury, and works to prevent those injuries from happening in the first place through clinical care and research.

Beyond clinical care

Orthopaedic surgery doesn’t just focus on patient care. In fact, the department is one of the nation’s top research destinations.

“We are in the top five nationally orthopedic departments when it comes to research funding from the National Institutes for Health,” said Burkley. That funding helps spur both lab work and clinical trials, which are frequently carried out at Michigan Medicine.

There is an educational component to the department, too. Ortho hosts eight residents per year for a five-year program. That means 40 residents at any one time are rotating through the eight subspecialties, along with spending time at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor to gain experience in a community hospital setting. There are also two sports medicine fellows and pediatric orthopaedic fellows within the department.

“We are committed to the organization’s three-part mission of carrying out world-class patient care, education and research,” Burkley said.

And thanks to the nature of its work, the department is one that will likely impact every patient who comes through the doors at Michigan Medicine.

“Almost everybody will suffer a musculoskeletal disability at some point in their life,” Burkley said. “Our team helps people get back to being themselves and living the life the way they want to — that’s what makes our work so exciting.”

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