A former United States Olympic rowing team member, Mary I. O’Connor, MD, knows a thing or two about perseverance. Today, Dr. O’Connor, the director of the Center for Musculoskeletal Care (CMC), a partnership of Yale Medicine and Yale New Haven Health, puts those experiences to use.
“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 at CMC is getting patients better without an operation. But for those who need an operation, we have great, expert surgeons.”
At CMC, specialists from multiple disciplines including orthopaedics, rheumatology, spine, sports medicine, and physical medicine and rehabilitation work together as a team. To help decide what is best for individual patients, CMC doctors listen 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.”
In addition to her leadership and clinical roles at CMC, Dr. O’Connor is a professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation at Yale School of Medicine. Her research interests include the use of stem cells to treat arthritis without surgery.