Helping Kids be Kids
James Sanders, M.D., is in the business of helping kids be kids, and as we all know, job #1 for kids is to move. From the time they learn to walk, most kids never seem to sit still until they reach adulthood.
But when children in Rochester and the upstate New York region have conditions that prevent them from moving freely, they often come to Sanders or one of his colleagues in the division of Pediatric Orthopaedics at UR Medicine.
UR Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedics is nationally recognized as one of the best for patient care, clinical research, and residency teaching. Many of its physicians are experienced in caring for both children and adults; as an example, department Chair Paul Rubery, M.D., a specialist in spine disorders, spends fully half his time with pediatric patients.
Sanders is chief of the department’s Pediatrics division, which focuses on caring solely for children – from infancy to the brink of adulthood. He and fellow pediatric orthopaedic specialists Christopher Cook, M.D., Susan Nelson, M.D., and Natasha O’Malley, M.D., care for childhood musculoskeletal issues of all types, head to toe – from spinal deformities, to limb irregularities, to club foot, and every bone and joint problem in between.
“An orthopaedic condition can impact a child’s ability to move, to develop physically, and to enjoy their young life – and it can have long-term impact on their overall health and emotional well-being,” Sanders said. “So it’s vital that they receive treatment as early as possible, along with all the rehabilitation and supportive care that our team can provide. We often see patients for years at a time, and we enjoy seeing these kids as they grow.”
Not so long ago, Sanders was the division’s only physician – but rising demand for pediatric orthopaedic services across the region has meant the addition of new team members, and big investments in technology and patient care facilities at Golisano Children’s Hospital. An EOS x-ray machine is a low-dose x-ray machine that reduces the amount of radiation exposure a child may receive – and since some patients will be followed over a period of years and receive multiple scans, it’s a valuable tool to help protect patients’ health.
“Our Pediatric Orthopaedics program has grown significantly over the last six years,” Sanders said.
“We have moved into our own facilities in a brand new children’s hospital, with operating rooms specifically designed and equipped for children. We have pediatric-friendly outpatient offices, and a large group of medical professionals who are very focused on working together to provide children with the care and support that they need.”
In addition to Orthopaedic physicians, the Pediatrics team includes specially trained pediatric nurse practitioners, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, radiologic technicians, and specialists skilled at crafting orthotics for small bodies. Because orthopaedic conditions can impact other aspects of children’s health, the team frequently partners with colleagues in Pediatrics and Neurology.
Home base is Golisano Children’s Hospital, but physicians provide convenient access to patients across a wide area. There are ambulatory clinics at Strong Memorial Hospital and in Brighton, Penfield, Webster and Greece in the Rochester area; physicians also travel to see patients in Horseheads and Auburn, and plans are underway to add outpatient services in Batavia and Ithaca.
Patients come from all over the Finger Lakes region and beyond for the innovative treatments Pediatric Orthopaedics provides. Physicians address musculoskeletal conditions that kids were born with, as well as injuries and diseases that can affect their bone and joint health.
Pediatric Orthopaedics is widely recognized as the top provider in the region and a national leader in innovating care of spinal and hip conditions. Sanders was an early adopter of two treatments that have now become the standard of care across the nation:
A non-surgical approach to treat infantile scoliosis using body casts: Sanders adopted the procedure in the early 2000s when there was skepticism that it could work. “But we found that it actually does work and helps children with early-onset scoliosis to get the condition corrected without surgery.” URMC was one of 25 institutions in the U.S. and Canada to participate in the Bracing in Adolescent Idopathic Scoliosis Trial (BRAIST) clinical trial to determine the procedure’s effectiveness in treating scoliosis.
A magnetic, adjustable rod implanted in the body to treat scoliosis that reduces the number of surgeries required. The MAGEC™ (MAGnetic Expansion Control) Spinal Growing Rod) is a non-invasive treatment for children with early onset scoliosis. Sanders was one of the first in the U.S. to surgically implant the rod to straighten a child’s spine. Then a remote control device is used to lengthen the magnetically controlled rod as the child grows.
While an onlooker might see a child impaired by a condition, Sanders and his colleagues see a child fighting hard to get back to what they love.
“Kids have a life to lead – an orthopaedic condition isn’t going to stop them,” Sanders said. “They don’t have time to let anything get them down. That’s what’s so fun about them.”
Helping kids get back on the move – and guiding their development toward a healthy, active adulthood – keeps this team going.