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Patient Stories

Tim Wagner, MD

NEBH Joint Replacement Fellow 2018-2019

I earned my undergraduate degree from Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA; my medical degree at George Washington University; and did my residency at Cleveland Clinic in Orthopedics. I’m originally from Rochester, NY, and after I complete this fellowship program, I’m returning to Rochester with my wife and two small children to join a practice there.

After an extensive national search, I selected New England Baptist Hospital (NEBH) because I wanted a joint replacement fellowship with a reputation as the best in orthopedics. I interviewed with ten of the top joint fellowships in the country, but NEBH was my first choice.

During my residency, I noticed that many of the best Cleveland Clinic attending physicians had completed their fellowships at NEBH. When I interviewed here, I was impressed by every single surgeon I met with.

In the orthopedic community it’s common to hear, ‘New England Baptist, that’s the best,” but when you arrive on campus, you realize the notable impact this hospital truly has on the orthopedic field—the leading joint surgeons not just at Cleveland Clinic but around the country did their fellowships here.

NEBH’s high volume of cases was another leading factor in my choice for fellowship training because I wanted to be as well-equipped as possible on my own as a surgeon. It’s truly unique. NEBH fellows care for more patients (where we assist attending physicians in surgeries) than any other fellowship program in the country—almost double the number of cases of the average peer program.

I researched many of the leading programs around the country, some at highly regarded academic medical institutions, and most total joint replacement fellows assist 350 to 400 surgeries in their fellowship year. At NEBH, fellows participate in the care of more than 900 patients in one year. We spend five days per week in the operating room at NEBH; most programs have fellows spend two to three days in the Operating Room and the other days in the clinic. At NEBH, we spend six days per year in the clinic. It’s not that clinic training isn’t important, but it is a skill you learn in residency and continue to hone once you join a practice or hospital staff, unlike surgical skill, which you can only learn through fellowship training. And I wanted to make the most of my year as a fellow.

Once you graduate from a fellowship program, there is no lifejacket; you are on your own as a surgeon and need to have the technical skills to care for your patient in real time. You have to rely on the skills you have gained through many years of general medical and specialty training. In the clinic setting, you can learn from your peers in your practice, and you can lean on their experience if a challenging patient situation arises.

I wanted to be as experienced and as polished in the OR as I could be when I left my fellowship; that was paramount for me. One specific example, because of my training at NEBH, I’ll be performing the anterior approach to hip replacement in my own practice. I couldn’t do it when I arrived here, and I wouldn’t have perfected that skill if not for the high volume of anterior cases I’ve done here at NEBH.

At NEBH, we have 12 attending surgeon mentors and we do three two-month rotations with four attending surgeons and two fellows per rotation. At the end of this six month cycle, we start over and do those rotations again. In some fellowship programs, I’ve heard the fellows dread working with a few of the attending surgeons, but that is not the case at NEBH—I genuinely look forward to working with and learning from all of the attending surgeons. I enjoy spending my days with them, and the nursing and OR staff members are the best as well.

Another great aspect of the NEBH training experience is the mentorship. In particular, for me, three surgeons have had a great impact on me that will last for my career: Dr. Bono, Dr. Mattingly, and Dr. Ward. If you polled joint fellows who graduate from NEBH, many would probably say they operate the way Dr. Bono does. It’s a great compliment to him. His results are very predictable and consistent. The way he prepares and executes is reproducible because it’s so organized and methodical. Dr. Bono is world renowned, and he has made an indelible mark on me, on the other fellows, and on the field.

Drs. Mattingly and Ward have been incredible mentors in terms of how you manage your career outside the OR as well as inside. Lessons like the balance of time at work and your time with your family; how you treat nursing staff and OR techs with respect; how you communicate; how you work directly with your patients and their families. The surgeons at NEBH all carry themselves in such a good way—they all behave respectably and have wonderful reputations.

I think it’s important for everyone to know that for joint replacement fellowship training, NEBH is at the very top of the list in the country. It was my top choice because it is just the best place to train. This is because of the combination of very high number of patients, great mentorship, and the skill and renown of the attending surgeons. For the hospital, the health of the fellowship program is important because all of the surgeons who graduate here make a mark on the larger orthopedic field. Many of the national leaders in joint replacement trained here at New England Baptist Hospital.

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