Ken Carlson

County Pulse: Orthopedic interns at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto score near the top

The orthopedic surgery residents at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto scored in the top 2 percent in an important examination of training programs in North America.

The eight interns in the orthopedic residency program at Doctors took the daylong examination in November and scored in the 98th percentile. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons exam tested the knowledge of interns in 239 training programs in the United States and Canada.

The scores will help build the reputation of the local program, which was created only three years ago by the Valley Consortium for Medical Education. In July, four new residents will enter the five-year program under the guidance of Dr. Marc Trzeciak.

“It’s a combination of good curriculum and working with really bright residents,” Trzeciak said. “The breadth and volume of cases we have here also helps them to apply their knowledge.”

Orthopedic surgeons replace worn-out knees and hips and treat other problems affecting the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves. The demand for those specialists will increase with the growing senior population in Stanislaus County and the number of surgeons who retire.

The Modesto area currently has a deficit of six orthopedic surgeons, and the shortage is going to worsen in the next five years. The projected deficit is 10 orthopedic doctors by 2020.

In addition, 40 percent of orthopedic doctors in the area are older than 60.

In 2018, the orthopedic residency at Doctors will start graduating three surgeons a year. The doctors who stay in the community to practice will help reduce the shortage.

Trzeciak said the training program also benefits the community by recruiting fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons to teach the interns. The Central Valley would not likely be attractive for those doctors without the opportunity for them to teach.

The interns and teaching doctors see patients in the trauma center at Doctors and the county health clinics, and perform surgeries under supervision of attending doctors. Trzeciak, who was recruited from the Midwest to lead the program, said he was surprised by the volume of local patients needing orthopedic care.

“There is a lot of need,” Trzeciak said. “What we see is a fair amount of trauma and many underserved patients. As doctors age, it is harder and harder for them to take care of trauma cases. We are teaching the next generation of orthopedic surgeons. Doctors in the community have been very good at helping the residents.”

Trzeciak specializes in complex hand surgeries, which creates another option for injured patients in the San Joaquin Valley from Stockton to Bakersfield.

A Bakersfield youth with a serious hand injury was transferred 200 miles to Doctors Medical Center after 13 other emergency rooms didn’t have the ability to accept the patient, Trzeciak said.

Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321