The Picture of Success

Orthopedics This Week—November 23, 2009

Dr. Jo Hannafin

If her life had taken a different turn, she could have been digging ponds to raise fish in Asia. Instead, Dr. Jo Hannafin, Director of Orthopedic Research at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York, ended up in a lecture hall at medical school.


Whether guiding male or female students, Dr. Hannafin insists on a patient first approach. "It may be tempting to crank through the voluminous number of patients, but they deserve our undivided attention. I also emphasize to students that they shouldn't prejudge patients. When people come to see us, they are often in pain, and may be angry. And yes, it's harder to be kind and take time with someone like that. I try to teach by example and take the extra time to let someone vent—they usually feel better once they are heard. Then you can get down to the underlying problem and map out a plan."

And Dr. Hannafin makes sure that the patients understand that plan. "I try to educate patients about anatomy, as well as the underlying cause of their problem. If I come up with a treatment plan that doesn't fit in with their schedule, then they won't do it because they don't understand why it is important. You might be a technical genius in the OR, but if the patient doesn't understand what you did, they may not approach their postop period correctly. For example, they may not make the appropriate lifestyle modifications, they might remove their sling prematurely, or they might use their arm or knee before they should. All in all this means that you and the patient didn't get a good result. Teaching the technical skills of surgery is fairly straightforward…it's the communication area that often gets us into trouble."

Women's Sports Medicine Center

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