If you had asked me in late July or early August 2010, when I laid the groundwork to start a sports medicine blog, that I would write 100 posts, I would have told you that it was unlikely. Fortunately, I found that I really enjoy blogging, and so I find the time to do it. For the last few months I’ve wanted to make the 100th blog post somewhat different than my typical sports injury or sports medicine topics posts. While I don’t like to open up too much about myself personally, I have been collecting questions that both readers send and patients ask me when they meet me in person.
Yes, I realize that these posts are personal, somewhat stream of consciousness, and probably more information than most readers want to know, but I hope you enjoy getting to know me more. To the readers who are interested, I want to thank you for being loyal followers who’ve inspired me to continue this journey. As always please keep the conversation going.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Memphis, Tennessee when my dad was in medical school. Not long after that we moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina while he was a pediatrics resident. We then lived in Omaha, Nebraska for two years, and as part of an arrangement to fulfill his duties for the Vietnam draft, he had to serve as a pediatrician at the SAC Air Force Base instead of going overseas. (Those two years in Nebraska, even though it was at a very early age, led me to be a Nebraska Cornhuskers football fan to this day.) From there we went to High Point, North Carolina, where I went to Catholic grade school and a public middle school.
After six hard years as a pediatrician, my dad decided he wanted to switch careers and become a radiologist. We moved back to Memphis while he completed a second residency in radiology.
When I went off to college, my parents moved to Anderson, South Carolina, where he was a radiologist and my mom, a former operating room nurse and nurse manager, became the director of a surgery center there. They lived in Anderson until moving to Charleston 7 or 8 years ago. While I was in school at Wake Forest University, I decided to go to medical school. I applied early to MUSC in Charleston, where I spent four wonderful years.
After deciding to go into orthopaedic surgery, I went against my previous promise to never to live in Memphis again, and I ranked the Campbell Clinic as my first choice in my orthopaedic surgery rank list. I matched into orthopaedic surgery at the Campbell Clinic in Memphis and spent the next 5 years as a general surgery intern and orthopaedic surgery resident. I then spent one year in St. Louis during my sports medicine fellowship before moving to where I am now – Charleston, South Carolina. I have no plans to leave, as Charleston is far and away the best place I have ever lived.
So that’s it – multiple places in the South – namely Memphis, North Carolina, and South Carolina – with a couple of stops outside of the South. I never lived in any of those places long enough to pick up that particular accent, but I don’t regret any of those locations.
Why did you go to Wake Forest?
Interestingly, I grew up a Carolina fan (North Carolina – to clarify for the Gamecocks fans here) and was for my entire life including high school. I remember watching Michael Jordan hit the game winning shot in the 1982 national championship game. I lived and died Carolina blue. When I was in high school in Memphis, I was determined to go to a school with ACC basketball, although I assumed I would go to UNC. I visited 3 schools during the summer after my junior year in high school – North Carolina, Duke (where my dad went), and Wake Forest.
I was extremely disappointed that I didn’t like North Carolina at all. The tour guide told me flat out that as an out-of-state applicant, I had no chance of getting in. When I got my acceptance letter, I had already decided I would never accept it. Actually the tour guide wasn’t really what dissuaded me from North Carolina. The school was just too big for me. I love Chapel Hill, but I don’t regret turning UNC down.
Duke was never for me. Despite the fact that my dad thinks that my brother and I both turned down acceptances to Duke because he didn’t like it, in reality it was not the right fit for either of us.
Actually I came one weekend away from going to Notre Dame. I visited there mainly because I was Catholic. Unfortunately when I got up there on the second-to-last weekend of April, it was terrible weather with near freezing rain. No thanks; I’ll take the southern Wake Forest weather any day.
My parents were thrilled that I chose Wake Forest. They tell everyone that I learned math as a little kid at Wake basketball games, which I attended with my dad while he was a pediatrics resident there. Apparently I used the scores to practice basic addition and subtraction. I loved Wake Forest because it was a small school and had students and faculty that seemed to be a good fit for me. Again I have wonderful memories of Wake and will always remember it very fondly. I wouldn’t change the decision to go there if I had to do it all over again.
Why did you decide to go to medicine?
This question is not easy to answer, as I’m not exactly sure. I never grew up wanting to be a doctor despite the fact that my dad was a physician and my mom was a nurse. When I got to Wake Forest, I remember my dad, who never pushed me into medicine, always telling me that one of the best aspects of medicine is that there are appropriate specialties for any type of personality. It became a natural choice, as I assumed that once I got into medical school I would find a specialty that would fit my personality. I started on the premed track and stuck with it.
If you were premed, why were you an economics major?
Honestly, I just like economics. When most people think of economics, they think of gross national product, cost of living adjustments, and other macroeconomic terms that appear on the news. That isn’t at all what I like about economics. I was fascinated by topics like game theory, where individuals make decisions based on assumptions of what opponents might choose to do. I always thought of it as “philosophy with graphs.” I took an Introduction to Economics course as part of the basic requirements. I enjoyed it so much that I finished with the top score in the class. My professor rewarded me with a copy of PJ O’Rourke’s Parliament of Whores. Anyway I knew it was going premed, so I chose economics because I enjoyed it. Actually some of my classmates did really fascinating work in economics. One developed a data system that has become commonplace in baseball. He developed metrics to evaluate the worth of baseball players – not just on statistics in the games but also based on jerseys sold, concessions sold, etc. Call me a nerd – I really enjoyed it at the time.
How did you decide to go to medical school in Charleston?
Actually this was one of the biggest no-brainers of my career. Although many of my classmates were planning to apply to medical school at Wake Forest, the thought of $100,000 or more per year was not particularly appealing to me. I knew that the medical school in South Carolina was in Charleston. Since my parents were in South Carolina, and Charleston was and is a wonderful city, I thought that I would also apply there. At that time MUSC had a program where you could apply for medical school in your sophomore or junior year of college. The goal of that program was to keep out-of-state students who otherwise might not have gone to MUSC and keep them in state. I got into medical school as a junior, which allowed me to focus on non-science courses for the rest of college. So yes, I never took the MCAT, but again, I don’t regret it one bit.
Why did you decide to go into orthopaedic surgery?
That decision almost came by default as much as anything else. Early in medical school I realized I wanted to be a surgeon. The aspect of surgery in general I like is that very often you actually fix a problem rather than just treating symptoms. I wanted to take something damaged, fix it, and then move on to the next problem. I would be miserable doing work like internal medicine, where a physician manages high blood pressure or diabetes, but at the end of the day the disease processes haven’t gone away. I know it’s an oversimplification, and by no means am I implying that internal medicine or other specialties are in any way inferior to any surgical specialties. Surgery was just always what I wanted to do.
Orthopaedics appeared to be a good mix between very technical surgeries and potentially a good lifestyle. When I rotated through orthopaedics both at MUSC and the Campbell Clinic, it just seemed to fit.
Why did you decide to go to Memphis for orthopaedics?
What most of the general public doesn’t know but is well known in orthopaedics is that the Campbell Clinic is the oldest residency program for orthopaedic surgery in the country. It’s one of the most prestigious programs. The faculty at the Campbell Clinic writes the textbook that almost all orthopaedic surgeons at some point use in their training and careers – Campbell’s Operative Orthopaedics. It’s a huge program in terms of the number of attendings and residents, and it’s a good mix of academics and private practice. I think it opened a lot of doors for me. Despite the fact that I said I wasn’t going back to Memphis, the Campbell Clinic made the return well worth it.
Who have been the biggest influences on you growing up and in your career now?
No question – my parents. My father is the smartest person I know, and my mom it is the hardest working person I’ve ever met. That’s not to say that she is not extremely intelligent as well. Just about everything I am from a personal and professional standpoint at least in some part I owe to their upbringing. I’ve watched how hard my mom has worked to get to where she is (she is the Senior Vice President of Operations for Ambulatory Surgery Centers of America), and her determination and work ethic are at least somewhat instilled in me. I don’t pretend to be as smart as my father, but I hope that I have at least some of his ability to think critically. I expect if you asked my brother the same question, you would get the same answer – that our parents have been very important in how we turned out. Scott is like my dad, and I’m more like my mom, but I like to think I have the best qualities of both.
That’s all for Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2, which is a lighter post discussing sports and other personal interests of mine. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them or e-mail me in the contact section of the blog.