Married orthopedic surgeons bring skills to Falmouth
The 30-something woman had shattered her ankle in a car accident and worried she would never be the same until orthopedic surgeon Natalie Nielsen, MD reconstructed the joint and restored mobility.
“It was a very bad fracture and I was able to put it back together with surgery,” she said. “I saw her yesterday and she is doing awesome, even walking to work. It was a kind of heartwarming thing because she thought after the accident that she might never walk on it again.”
An Apache helicopter pilot had suffered from an MCL (medial collateral ligament) tear in his knee months before and had not found any relief from the debilitating pain until he met orthopedic surgeon Andrew Markwith, MD.
“I was able to do an MCL reconstruction and repair his meniscus, and at his last follow-up he said his knee felt better than his other one, completely stable, and he was going to be able to return for the next scheduled deployment,” he said.
At the time, both patients were treated in upstate New York, where Drs. Nielsen and Markwith were practicing until recently. Now, the husband and wife orthopedic specialists are bringing their skills to Falmouth where they will join orthopedic surgeon Paul Dimond, MD at Total Orthopedic Care this month.
Dr. Nielsen specializes in foot and ankle orthopedics, while Dr. Markwith specializes in sports medicine.
The ability to practice in what is known as a “sub-specialty” model was what attracted the couple to Cape Cod Healthcare.
“Natalie and I are both flexible working within whatever system, but where we feel our skills are best applied would be a sub-specialty model,” said Dr. Markwith. “We know the basics for all the different sub-specialties and are always willing to cross-cover (for other surgeons) but being able to see a sub-specialist is important, and that’s the way it’s going nationally.”
“It seems like there is a really good vision for orthopedics (at Cape Cod Healthcare) and talking with (President and CEO) Mike Lauf and Paul (Dimond), we are excited about making (care) more accessible to people,” Dr. Nielsen said.
The couple met while doing their medical residencies at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. Dr. Nielsen grew up in the Seattle, WA area and went to medical school at the University of Washington Medical School. After residency, she completed a foot and ankle fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, working with highly-regarded foot and ankle specialists.
“She won’t say it, but it’s rated as the number one orthopedic hospital in the country,” said her husband.
Dr. Nielsen became interested in the specialty after she saw how important the feet and ankles are to people’s quality of life.
“Being a lower extremity, it’s very important for people who want to remain active and be able to do what they want to do,” she said. “I found it very satisfying just to be able to help people who are having limitations in their daily life. It’s really rewarding when people come into the office and say they can finally walk or golf without pain.”
Some of the more common procedures she performs include total ankle replacements, traumatic injury repair, fractures of the foot and ankle, arthritis treatment and fusions for foot arthritis, and tendon repair and other surgeries.
Dr. Markwith grew up in New Hampshire and went to Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, VA. After his residency, he completed a fellowship in sports medicine at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, MD where he treated members of the Baltimore Ravens football team and the Washington Nationals baseball team. He also worked with athletes at the surrounding colleges, he said.
He chose sports medicine because it offers a variety of cases in patients from as young as 10 to people in the 80s.
“It’s not always athletes,” he said. “It’s getting people back to their desired recreation, too, whatever level that is.”
Some of the more common conditions Dr. Markwith treats include ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears, meniscus tears, patellar (kneecap) dislocations, shoulder dislocations, AC (acromioclavicular) joint separations (common in hockey and other contact sports), and rotator cuff repairs.
With a family home on Martha’s Vineyard since childhood, and family living on Cape Cod, Dr. Markwith knows the area well and looks forward to becoming involved in the community, along with Dr. Nielsen and their two children; Caroline, 5 and Andrew, 2.
Dr. Nielsen said she “instantly fell in love" with the Cape and Islands area, when she was first introduced to it by her husband. “It’s just so beautiful and nice to be near the water.”
Now, the family is looking forward to becoming part of the community. Dr. Markwith plans to help follow the Cape Cod Baseball League, which includes elite college players, as well as high school sports in the area. Falmouth physician Donald O’Malley, MD is the team doctor for the Falmouth Commodores.
“It will be more than just an orthopedic practice,” Dr. Markwith said.
Raising their children “in such a beautiful place,” excites Dr. Nielsen, and she, too, looks forward to becoming involved in the Falmouth community.
Drs. Nielsen and Markwith, who often assist each other in the operating room, are also excited to bringing their expertise to patients on the Upper Cape and South Shore.
“We look forward to building orthopedics on the Upper Cape and keeping the care local, versus having to travel off-Cape,” said Dr. Nielsen.