A former United States Olympic rowing team member, Mary I. O’Connor, MD, knows a thing or two about perseverance. “Athletics shaped me. I always try to always focus on what goals my patients have and how I can work with them to achieve those goals,” says Dr. O’Connor, who is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hip and knee replacement.
Although she did not get to compete in the 1980 Summer Olympics due to the boycott in Moscow, Dr. O’Connor says the lessons she learned in rowing influenced her philosophy on leadership. “Both in rowing and in medicine, the team is what creates great outcomes,” she says.
And those outcomes don’t always require surgery, Dr. O’Connor points out. “We know a lot of patients get better without surgery,” she says. “And I honestly don’t know any patient who wants surgery if they can get better without an operation. So our focus is getting patients better without an operation. But for those who need an operation, we have great, expert surgeons.”
To help decide what is best for individual patients, Dr. O'Connor listens carefully. “We want patients to tell us their story,” Dr. O’Connor says. “There is rich information about each patient in their history and how the musculoskeletal condition is affecting their life. Our team works to bring their needs into treatment decisions we make together.”
Dr. O’Connor is a professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation at Yale School of Medicine.