University Orthopedics in Providence, Rhode Island, is a regional referral center for patients with back and neck pain, joint pain, sports medicine problems, shoulder pain, hand problems, hip and knee pain, and foot and ankle injury.
The orthopedic center includes more than 25 board-certified orthopedic surgeons who are fellowship-trained, the highest level of medical training in the U.S. These specialists are clinical professors on the faculty of Brown University’s medical school as teachers of other new physicians, and leading the way with clinical research of the latest advances in orthopedic surgery and injury prevention.
Our affiliation with Brown Alpert Medical School enables new orthopaedic surgeons to learn the most advanced surgical techniques by working hand in hand with the experienced spine surgeons, hand surgeons, joint replacement surgeons, foot & ankle surgeons and sports medicine specialists at University Orthopedics.
We believe that the best quality healthcare comes from a well-informed patient. Consequently, we’ve developed here an online encyclopedia on orthopedic problems and treatments, including the realm of spine problems and sports medicine. Within this site you will find symptom charts, narrated videos on various treatments and surgical procedures, information on when symptoms need to be seen by a physician, and how to choose the best physician for your problem. You will learn how to make better medical decisions for your care, and if you need to get a second opinion for surgery, how to conduct that search for the right specialist.
The next sections provide an overview of how and why we believe University Orthopedics is different, and perhaps superior, to other orthopedic providers.
Philosophically, University Orthopedics has for decades believed in the important connection between academic medicine, private practice and clinical research.
While some orthopaedic surgeons focus on the economic advantages of dedicating 100% of their time to private practice, the physicians at University Orthopedics believe that just as they benefited from the educational training they received early on in their careers, they should return the expertise they gain through private practice by educating those coming out of medical schools who in turn take their expertise into the community. This give-back to the community completes a circle of knowledge between the experience orthopedic surgeon and those who seek out fellowships with the best orthopedic groups in the nation.
Acting as the head of the Department of Orthopedics at Brown Alpert Medical School, University Orthopedics directs many clinical research efforts intended to innovate new orthopedic surgery techniques; new surgical implant devices that improve the success of various procedures; and new ways to prevent orthopedic injury.
For example, through Brown University’s Center for Restorative and Regenerative Medicine, researchers are involved in:
Medicine has become extremely specialized. Fifty years ago, an orthopedic surgeon represented the best specialist to deal with any injury to bone.
Rapid advances in every area of medicine over the past few decades, however, have made it impossible for a single physician in any medical specialty to be proficient across an array of injuries and problems. Surgical techniques and surgical equipment become more intricate. Minimally invasive surgical options enable a surgeon to access the inside of the body through cannula the width of a ball point pen. Through these cannula, a specialist will manipulate a tiny camera with incisor cutting blades to perform corrective surgery.
A traditional surgery from a general surgeon might require an open three inch incision – with all the associated disruption to muscles, tissues and tendons — and then several days in the hospital, and after that months of painful rehab to rebuild the disrupted tissues from the large incision. Conversely, the fellowship-trained specialist who makes a half-inch long incision, uses advanced surgical instrumentation to correct the injury, enables the patient to go home the same day to the comfort of their home. Rehabilitation is quicker, less painful and the person is back to their work, sport or recreational activity faster and with a better clinical outcome.
Consequently, because of the above benefits, every medical specialty has become “sub-specialized” with super specialists that have the most advanced expertise in their particular niche.
Twenty to thirty years ago, experience within various niches became commonplace within the field of orthopedics and as a physician moved through his career, he tended to become more adept with certain specialty areas. Today, it’s commonplace for a physician in his forties or fifties to have subspecialized in hand, knee, shoulder or spine — just by virtue of the thousands of patients he has seen and the thousands of surgeries performed.
As with anything else in life, practice makes perfect, and those who do the most of something become the most proficient. There is really no substitute for experience.
For a younger physician leaving medical school today, however, it simply is not practical to spend 15 years garnering experience. So the process of gaining experience is compressed into a type of medical training called a “fellowship.”
In medicine, for example, fellowships represent the highest level of medical education in the world. Within the specialization of orthopedics, new physicians now pursue fellowships in the subspecialty niches of hand surgery, or spine surgery, or sports medicine, or joint replacement.
Within their fellowship, a physician spends an additional year before starting their private practice, working exclusively with other experienced orthopedic specialists, observing the most complex surgery on the worst-imaginable injuries, sometime brought in by helicopter from a wide geographic. This can mean that by the time the orthopedic surgeon is leaving his formal medical training, he is nearly 30 years old. So while other people enter their careers at age 18 after high school, or 22 after college, or 24 after graduate school, a fellowship-trained subspecialist in medicine leaves school much later in life, more mature, better trained, but often with several hundred thousands of dollars in medical school debt, and a lot of catching up to do.
The expertise from a fellowship, however, is of great value to a patient with a particular injury. A general orthopedic surgeon might only be presented in the emergency room an extremely complex spinal injury one time in year, while during a spine fellowship an orthopedic surgeon is exposed to these types of injuries several times a week.
This is because a center like University Orthopedics, by virtue of its array of subspecialists, is often referred the most complex orthopedic injuries from across Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Within a spine surgery fellowship, for instance, an orthopedic fellow would assist an experienced spine surgeon in treating the most severe spinal injuries. A fellowship within spine that focused on scoliosis and spinal deformity, would expose the orthopedic surgeon to the most extreme spinal curves and the most current minimally invasive scoliosis correction surgical instrumentation.
Because of this super specialization in orthopedics, University Orthopedics is organized into CLINICAL CARE CENTERS which provides patients across Rhode Island — Providence County, Kent County, Washington County, Bristol County and Newport County — the most specialized care related to their orthopedic injury or pain symptom.
Across all these clinical “care centers” is a physical therapy team that provides customized therapy for each body part. This includes a therapy gym,and therapists in our outlying satellite locations.
To schedule an appointment with any University Orthopedics physician, please call the Appointment Coordinator at (401) 457-1500.