Doctor Spotlight: Nancy Kadel, M.D.

Orthopedic surgeon and former dancer Nancy Kadel, photographed at the Merlino Arts Building in Tacoma on May 8, 2013. Dancers are Nora Kelley (left) and Carolynne Guinup

Specialty: Orthopedic surgeon
Hospital affiliation: Group Health Cooperative

How has your early dance experience, including a stint in New York with the Martha Graham Dance Company, influenced your approach to your job?
It helps me stay focused and think on my feet; just as if you are on stage and somebody misses an entrance or the music is different, you have to be able to adjust to it. It has also affected how I prepare for surgery. If I am doing a new procedure, I break down the steps of a surgery just like you would the steps of a dance piece; I rehearse them mentally so that when I step into the operating room, my body is prepared.

Why did you help start the Seattle Dance Medicine Free Clinic at Group Health?
The idea is to have a multidisciplinary clinic (for evaluating common dance-related injuries) available for dancers, and because many working dancers are uninsured or underinsured, we wanted it to be free. We try and educate the dancers about their bodies. We also try and educate each other, because it’s rare that a physical therapist and a surgeon get to work side by side, and we get to learn a lot from each other.

Any advice for athletes on how to keep themselves healthy and injury-free?
Athletes, in general, should make sure that they add rest and recovery to their training. Many of the injuries we see are from overtraining or poor training schedules and from trying to do too much too quickly. Add in some cross training to balance your body. Listen to your body: If something really doesn’t feel right, stop.

Was there a moment early on when you knew you had gone into the right field?
I was a first-year orthopedic resident and my fellow first-year, who was this big, muscly guy, said, “I have a patient with a dislocated hip in the emergency room and I can’t put it back in. We’re going to have to call the chief to take it to surgery to put it back.” I said, “Oh well, first let me try.” He just looked at me, this scrawny little girl. I got up on the stretcher with her and used my legs to pop her hip back in, and I thought, “OK, I can do this.”

What’s your favorite part of your day?
If it’s a surgery day, just walking into the operating room and greeting the OR staff, because that’s when I just feel like I’m home. If it’s a clinic day, it is very exciting when I get to see patients after surgery when they’re healed and they have less pain and better function than they did before surgery.

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