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Physicians learn, grow in challenging-yet-rewarding training program

April 28, 2017 - TCO

Physicians learn, grow in challenging-yet-rewarding training program

Physicians spend years acquiring knowledge, first through school and then experience, in an endless quest to improve and innovate their respective fields as medicine and health care evolve. The Fairview/MOSMI Sports Medicine Fellowship program at TCO allows physicians to share that knowledge and teach other orthopedic physicians interested in sports medicine through research, education and firsthand experiences.

The program, a collaboration between the physicians at Twin Cities Orthopedics and Fairview Health Services, is one of four sports medicine fellowship programs that exist nationally in a non-university setting.

One orthopedic physician is matched with a program annually from a group of applicants to serve as a fellow for one year of advanced training in sports medicine. The fellowship includes clinical, surgical, on-field and athletic training room experiences and provides a chance for orthopedic surgeons to move beyond their traditional role and work together as a sports medicine team.

Dr. Jonathan Campbell has been our fellow at TCO since August.

“Everyone has been great to work with,” Dr. Campbell said. “They are very supportive of my education and future career.”

Research and education

Teaching fellows and residents is important to the growth of a particular field of expertise. Through involvement in education and research, physicians are able to achieve the most up-to-date sports medicine practices.

“Research and education are primary driving forces for me, and having a fellow helps maintain the ability to accomplish our goals,” Dr. Chris Larson, who has been the program director for three years, said. “The goals are to give back by way of fellowship and surgeon sports medicine education and to advance the field of sports medicine through innovative research.”

The drive and desire to advance various orthopedics specialties, including sports medicine, result in top-level research.

“Being a private practice and producing the quality and quantity of research that meets most academic institutions are certainly something to be proud of,” Dr. Larson said. “At TCO we do this on our own time without salary or tenure based on our research production.”

Athletes of all levels

Working with athletes has taught physicians and fellows alike how to tackle sports injuries, surgery and rehabilitation and helped shape their recommendations for athletes of all levels. Today athletes are recovering in different ways from injuries that previously may have required surgery.

“Athletes share a motivation and drive to succeed and recover,” Dr. Larson said. “It is amazing to work with patients who want to get better at all costs and will do whatever it takes to get there.”

Dr. Campbell said the ability to work with a number of surgeons in the entire spectrum of sports medicine and a variety of athletes are what sparked his interest in the fellowship.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Minnesota Vikings as well as many other college and high school athletes,” Dr. Campbell said. “I’ve learned a lot about the acute management of injuries on the field and working with athletic trainers to get athletes back playing.”

As a former fellow of the program and current faculty member, Dr. Christie Heikes said she enjoys helping emerging, talented surgeons.

“They gain additional expertise and the practical application of science, physiology, knowledge of sport, operative skills and return-to-play guidelines that they’ll need to be a rising star,” Dr. Heikes said.

Looking back, down the road

He may be on the teaching side of a fellowship now, but Dr. Larson still looks back fondly on his own time as a fellow at TCO.

“I had the ability to work with high school, collegiate and professional athletes, and this prepared me for a career in sports medicine at essentially all levels,” he said. “It also afforded me the opportunity to work with certified athletic trainers and physical therapists with sports medicine interests, which is a critical part of a successful sports medicine practice.”

That learning continues as the current program director. Dr. Larson said he learns from fellows as they challenge him with their eagerness for more knowledge.

“We have been lucky to have great fellows to work with,” he said, “and this year is no exception.”

Looking back on her time as a fellow, Dr. Heikes finds her experience invaluable.

“I was part of the team for the first time, helping patients from the athletic field to the operating room and back to the athletic field and sports,” she said. “I had access to all members of the care team starting with the athletic trainers on the field to the therapists, post-operatively. To be able to learn all phases of care and how to coordinate that care was essential to be a sports medicine specialist.”

Dr. Corey Wulf, also a former fellow and current faculty member, said “educating young physicians is a rewarding endeavor that challenges my own knowledge and critical thinking as much as I attempt to challenge theirs.”

Dr. Larson said he feels strongly that the program will continue to do well as long as it has dedicated faculty, as they are the program’s main drivers.

The faculty see the upside of that dedication.

“Being involved in fellow education benefits all of us,” Dr. Greg Lervick said. “We have been fortunate to have excellent fellows in our program. They bring their own thoughts and experiences from their prior education. It often becomes an exchange of ideas that is both fun and interesting.”

Another feeling Dr. Larson has for the program is gratitude.

“I simply help to direct things at a small level,” he said. “I am grateful for the talented educators, clinicians and surgeons that make this fellowship a great experience for all.”