Four African-American orthopedic surgeons are making their mark at Einstein Healthcare Network.
The surgeons — Drs. Richard E. Grant, Anthony Ndu, Julius K. Oni and Eric Williams — have assumed the role of community “ambassadors” for Einstein. The board-certified physicians are encouraging the community to tap into the orthopedic care available at Einstein Orthopedics multiple offices and surgical locations at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia and Einstein Elkins Park. The physicians are part of a team that treats complex conditions — such as patients with multiple complicating conditions, trauma cases and corrective surgery procedures for joints that have been poorly replaced.
“Part of our outreach is to make people aware of the fact that we have incredible surgical capabilities here in spine and total joints and foot and ankle surgery,” said Dr. Grant, who specializes in joint replacement surgery, total arthroplasty, gender-specific knee replacement and sickle cell disease-related osteonecrosis.
Grant is a United States Air Force veteran who earned his medical degree from Howard University School of Medicine, interned at the Kaiser Foundation and completed his orthopedic residency at the United States Air Force Wilford Hall Medical Center.
He highlighted the significance of four African-American and African orthopedic surgeons serving on Einstein’s faculty.
“It’s about 156 residency education programs across the country that teaches young doctors how to become orthopedic surgeons. It’s a very unique situation when you have that many African-American surgeons on the faculty at one place at one time,” Grant stated.
The four surgeons were drawn to Einstein because it serves a diverse inner city community.
“One of the things that I think is not fair is that sometimes as physicians we get excellent training but then we go out of the community to practice. It was important for me to be able to come into the community to continue to practice,” said Dr. Williams, who earned his medical degree from Temple University School of Medicine and completed the Maryland Spine Fellowship at the Spine and Scoliosis Center at St. Joseph’s Medical Center.
“I think that one of the really good things about Einstein is that we have a multidisciplinary team approach here.”
Williams, who joined Einstein in 2002, is a pioneer in minimally invasive spine surgery and complex innovative procedures. He directed Einstein’s orthopedic residency and spinal cord injury programs until 2012. His expertise includes outpatient operations; cervical, thoracic and lumbar procedures; spinal malignancies; total disc replacement and reconstructive procedures for adult scoliosis and degenerative spondylolisthesis.
Williams said he and his partners can play a key role in educating the community about the importance of maintaining their musculoskeletal health.
“That is where I think we can really help in terms of making an impact in our community by stressing the importance of staying aerobically fit, [watching] our weight and how those things can make sure that we will have less knee problems, hip problems and spine problems,” said Williams, a native of Washington, D.C., who grew up in Philadelphia.
Williams noted that the majority of his patients are African Americans who tend to have more advanced disease such degenerative spondylolisthesis — a degenerative condition that results in the narrowing of the spinal canal.
“Sometimes if they have access to care earlier, certain interventions can be done that may not require surgery. It’s important to stress that there are certain problems that can’t be fixed without surgery,” he added.
After growing up in Newark, N.J., Dr. Ndu knew he wanted to practice in a similar environment where he could make a difference.
“After finishing my training, I had a couple of places that were more financially lucrative, but I wanted to work in environment that reflected where I grew up because I knew the type of care that I got a ‘clinic’ patient and I know there is better out there,” said Ndu.
Ndu became the newest member of Einstein’s orthopedic team when he came on board in September.
“From our standpoint we would love to see our community come back to Einstein. I believe that been the whole point in trying to recruit good talent to help draw people back and elevate the level of the program. We want people to understand that we want to help them,” said Ndu, who specializes in foot and ankle surgery.
“We’re not just surgeons. At the end of the day, we’re doctors and we want to help take care of the whole person.”
Ndu, who does reconstructive, trauma and fracture work, is an alumnus of Yale University where he earned both his medical degree and his master of business administration. The native of Nigeria completed a residency in orthopedic surgery at Yale where he served as a clinical instructor for the Department of Orthopedics. He completed a foot and ankle fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania.
Due to his subspecialty, Ndu providing diabetic foot care and treating patients who have flat feet — a condition that is more common in African Americans. Ndu says flat feet can lead to other tendon problems.
Dr. Oni is another new addition to Einstein’s orthopedic surgery department. He came to Einstein in August from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The Nigerian native earned his medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine and completed his residency at New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases.
He specializes in minimally invasive joint replacement surgery — hip and knee replacements.
“It’s been very gratifying in terms of making a significant difference in the lives of patients. With the methods that we use now a lot of patients can get back to their lives a lot quicker and faster.”
Oni recalled how he impacted the life of a patient who had been wheelchair bound for more than a year due to severe arthritis in his hip. He felt a sense of gratification when the patient walked into his office three weeks after undergoing a total hip replacement.
“He walked into the office and was just profusely thankful that he had a new lease on life. Things like that just make everything worth it,” said Oni.