How long have you worked here?
Where did you work before that?
I worked in pain management for 16 and a half years.
How did you approach a career in orthopedics?
Actually, it approached me! To rewind, about 15 or 16 years ago, Jon Gilman was actually my PA student. After he graduated, we hired him in the pain management clinic I was working in. We always got along great – I view him like a brother. Then we worked together for 2 years, he left and went to ortho. For the last 4 or 5 years he has been trying to recruit me out of pain management to come on board here.
I wanted to change things up. I had done pain management for a long time, but I actually had an interest in going into oncology. I was at the point where I want to learn something completely different and I was in final negotiations with Kettering Cancer Center when Jon Gilman reached out to me again and said “you just have to give ortho a chance! Trust me, you’re going to love it.” Finally, after several months I pulled the trigger and he was right, I do love it!
What is your favorite condition to treat?
I would probably say knees, just because I think it’s so gratifying. You can do a scope in 20 minutes, on a person who has been limping or can’t stand for longer than 10 minutes at a time. Then two or three weeks after surgery, they’re walking in and you can just see the changes on their face. They’re pain free for the first time in who knows how long. So, I think that’s the most rewarding condition to treat.
What excites you most about the future of Orthopedics?
I think that orthobiologics is exciting because we are now able to offer more non-surgical treatments that are very effective, before resorting to surgery. We have patients who come in and need a total knee replacement or need some type of surgery, but they can’t have it because of medical reasons, or they can’t take the time off work or just want to avoid surgery in general. Stem cells and PRP therapies are great options for those patients, to delay the inevitable for as long as possible while still maintaining a good quality of life.
What has been your most challenging case so far?
I had a patient who came in recently – he’s around 60 years old and he presented with a complete wrist drop paralysis. He could not move his hand at all. So with a wrist drop, you think “OK, he has radial nerve palsy”, but what caused it? Did he sustain an injury, or did he lie on it in a funky position at night? Well, he didn’t. He started feeling a weird sensation and his hand and over a period of weeks he developed a wrist drop that is more than likely permanent.
Unfortunately when he first presented to us he had not had any physical therapy because the previous physicians that he was consulting with didn’t recommend it. They were ordering tests and stuff but he had a lot of atrophy in his arm muscles. It’s just strange because usually there’s something that triggers that and in his case there was not. We are currently in the process of trying to strengthen those muscles again while ordering much more extensive tests to determine the underlying cause.
But this case in particular has been on my mind, keeping me up at night, because my Mother developed a right wrist drop for no reason. Several years ago, she was in remission of cancer when we were on vacation and she said “Jen, I can’t move my hand. I didn’t do anything!” So we took her to the emergency room the doctor diagnosed her with exactly the same condition as the case I was describing earlier, Brachial Nerve Palsy. When we got home, we took her to a hand surgeon who said “This is strange. This doesn’t make sense”. They ordered an MRI of the brachial plexus in her brain and found a mass that was causing this. So of course, when one of my patients presented with almost exactly the same thing, this hit a personal note for me.
My goal is to get him some function back, not just accept that he has now lost the use of his right arm. I’m not just going to sit back – we’re going to dig as deep as we need to, to find out what’s going on, to hopefully help him in a meaningful way.
What do you do in your downtime to relax?
I spend a lot of time with family. I love, love, love to shop! Bargain shopping, especially. I like to work out. My family and I also love to travel, so we spend as much time traveling as we possibly can.
What has been the most surprising or unexpected aspect of working in Orthopedics?
I’ve definitely broken up the boys’ club! There are not many women working in Orthopedic surgery and I didn’t realize that going into this. But I wear my heels every day, religiously, haha! I’ve definitely brought some much-needed femininity to the group. What used to be Dr Paley’s ‘quiet room’ where he relaxes with all his collectibles, I renamed ‘The Spa Room’ which everyone else now calls it. It has been fun breaking through those glass ceilings at our conferences especially – people used to assume that I was someone’s wife just waiting for their husband to get done with the conference! But we all put a stop to that pretty quickly.