The Class of 2019’s Mark Feger received the National Athletic Trainers Association’s Perrin Doctoral Dissertation Award.
Orthopaedists are among the busiest of all surgeons.
A 2018 report from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality revealed that six of the top 20 most common operating room procedures are musculoskeletal. Orthopaedic procedures comprise 17 percent of all surgeries — more than any other category.
Given the volume involved, as well as an overarching focus on the structure and movement of the body, it is easy to understand orthopaedists’ affinity for the more mechanical aspects of their work.
At VCU School of Medicine, one prospective orthopaedic surgeon is making a concerted effort to look beyond those mechanics. Through his research and his projects away from the laboratory, the Class of 2019’s Mark Feger, Ph.D., aspires to serve the full human being, not just the parts made of muscle, cartilage and bone.
“Orthopaedic surgeons help people do the things they love,” Feger says. “That means going for a walk or a run, spending time with their families, or going back to their job. We help people maintain their function and do the things they enjoy doing.”
Feger also doesn’t seem to have a problem with big workloads. He has built a solid reputation for research and scholarship, and has the accolades to prove it. As he works toward an M.D. degree to add to his Ph.D., Feger recently accepted the National Athletic Trainers Association’s Perrin Doctoral Dissertation Award, which recognizes outstanding doctoral student research in athletic training and health care.
Feger’s dissertation research at the University of Virginia centered on the ankle, specifically its increased vulnerability to repetitive sprain after it sustains an initial sprain. Feger improved function in study participants with novel rehabilitation strategies and a new device to help improve gait.
“We studied self-reported outcomes, muscle size and function, and gait and jump-landing mechanics before and after rehabilitation,” Feger explained. “We looked at what we could do from a rehab standpoint to target their specific impairments and we implemented a four-week comprehensive rehabilitation and gait training program to improve self-reported function and functional capacity.”
On VCU’s MCV Campus, Feger has distinguished himself with the Edith E. and Hugo R. Seibel Award for Excellence in Gross Anatomy — something that’s particularly meaningful to prospective orthopaedists, given their wide-angle focus on the body.
“I have a background in sports medicine and athletic training, and have taken cadaver labs before,” Feger says. “I think the only way to really learn and understand orthopaedic anatomy and function is to use your hands. It helps you visualize and appreciate important anatomic relationships.”
The award carries the names of Hugo Seibel, Ph.D., and his wife. Seibel retired in 2004 as the associate dean of student activities and professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology after 35 years on the MCV Campus.
Research is just one part of Feger’s resume. He has also made a commitment to people.
“He has a quiet confidence and humble air that is one of the hallmarks of a leader,” said Associate Professor Gregory Golladay, M.D., who holds the Allison D. and J. Abbott Byrd III Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery and is one of Feger’s mentors. “His preparation for clinical encounters and OR procedures is thorough and flawless. He is naturally inquisitive, thoughtful and attentive. He accepts feedback and has diligent self-study. He is caring and makes easy rapport with patients.”
As part of his regular activities, Feger spends time with children who have serious illnesses, such as cancer, through VCU’s SMILE Program (Students Making it a Little Easier).
“Medical students pair up with kids undergoing various treatments at VCU,” Feger says. “Pediatric patients don’t necessarily look forward to coming to the hospital, but if they get to play games, talk, and do science projects with us, it might help take their mind off the treatments they are here to receive.”
Alongside his accomplishments, what sets Feger apart is the humanity he sees beyond the flesh and bone.
“I know what I want to do in the future, and that’s take care of patients,” Feger says. “It means a lot to me to get someone moving again, and get them back to living their life.”
By Scott Harris