The Picture of Success: Dr. Mathias Bostrom

Orthopedics This Week—February 8, 2010

Many Swedes have left their mark on science, and you can now add Dr. Mathias Bostrom to the list. Born in Sweden, Dr. Bostrom, now a hip and knee specialist at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York, was raised in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. "Being first generation immigrants, my parents held education in high regard and stressed hard work. My dad, an economist with the World Bank, would always say, 'There are a lot of opportunities in this country; once you have an education you can do whatever you want.' My mom stayed at home to help ensure that I made the most of those opportunities."

Yet another set of watchful eyes helped keep a young Mathias Bostrom on the right path.

"Whenever I walked into my ninth grade science class, I was met with an unusually qualified instructor...an NIH researcher. As you can imagine, he was intellectually rigorous and didn't tolerate sloppy thinking."

Before jumping into the medical school applicant pool, Mathias Bostrom dove into another kind of pool. "I attended the University of Virginia, where I was a physics major and swam competitively. Being involved in such a focused, goal oriented activity was powerful, and helped focus my thinking about other areas of my life."

Finding Perfection in Orthopedics

On the early admissions track at Johns Hopkins Medical School, the soon-to-be Dr. Bostrom had a bit of flexibility on his hands. "Because I was admitted to Hopkins in my third year of college, I was fortunate to have the freedom to pursue other avenues and indulged my interests in music and art history. When I arrived at medical school and saw all of the options, I just wasnít sure which specialty to select. While I considered cardiothoracic surgery, once I did my orthopedic rotation and they let me put a screw in a fractured ankle in the middle of the night, I thought, 'I can actually make a living doing this?'"

With his heart set on orthopedics, he looked for a school where hazing wasn't part of the daily ritual. "I completed medical school in 1989 and thought that I would remain at Hopkins or go to the University of Pennsylvania. I had never seriously considered New York, but when I interviewed at HSS, I was hit over the head with all they had to offer. Not only was there this critical mass of people doing cutting edge work, but I could see that the facility had a humanistic approach to education, meaning that there was no 'let's beat up the residents mentality.'"

But those not interested in perfection need not apply.

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