This article first appeared in the Vail Daily on February 9, 2020.
In August 2019, The Steadman Clinic welcomed its first woman orthopedic surgeon to its ranks when Dr. Leslie Vidal joined the staff as a shoulder, hip, knee and sports medicine specialist. Just a few months later, two more women surgeons were added to the clinic’s ranks when Dr. Katie Bartush and Dr. Marissa Jamieson began their fellowships under the direction of foot and ankle specialists Dr. Thomas Clanton and Dr. C. Thomas “Tommy” Haytmanek.
While Bartush and Jamieson will both be on staff for a limited time, their inclusion as the only foot and ankle fellows in the coveted fellowship program at The Steadman Clinic is noteworthy.
There have been other women fellows during the nearly 20 years of the program, which was started by Clinic founder Dr. J. Richard Steadman —including one female sports medicine fellow in the 2018-19 class — but Bartush and Jamieson are the first women to serve as fellows in the prestigious foot and ankle program.
“We had two great women applicants this year and are so proud to have both Katie and Marissa in our program at the same time,” said Clanton, who joined The Steadman Clinic’s staff in 2009. “With the way things are advancing in the field of orthopedic surgery today, it is going to become more common to see women joining our ranks. The current president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) is a former colleague of mine from Texas, Dr. Kristy Weber. While the percentage of female orthopedic surgeons remains small, it is growing and we are proud that The Steadman Clinic is helping that movement.”
From Texas to Vail
Bartush and Jamieson share similar educational backgrounds and came to Vail with outstanding credentials. Both attended college in Texas and participated in intercollegiate athletics as undergrads.
“My interest in orthopedics really stemmed from several ACL injuries when I was very young,” Bartush said. “I played soccer at SMU (Southern Methodist University in Dallas) and as a former athlete, I was naturally drawn to orthopedics.”
Bartush moved onto both medical school and her residency in San Antonio. Her first professional foray into sports medicine came with a one-year fellowship at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham, Alabama. Upon completion of that program, Bartush eyed the opportunity to learn more about the sub-specialty of foot and ankle surgery. A chance meeting with Dr. Clanton at her residency graduation ceremony in San Antonio led her to pursue an opportunity to work as a fellow at the Clinic in Vail.
“When I heard about the foot and ankle fellowship at The Steadman Clinic, I knew that it was a special opportunity that I could not pass up,” Bartush said.
Jamieson ran on both the cross-country and track teams at Rice University in Houston and also got her sports medicine bug as a collegiate athlete. Dr. Clanton was living and working in Texas at the time and was the lead team physician at Rice.
“Fortunately for Marissa,” Clanton said, “she was pretty healthy and I didn’t see her too much at Rice, other than the yearly physical we conducted prior to her season each year. When we interviewed her for the fellowship we reconnected and were very happy to invite her to come to Vail and be part of our program.”
While running at Rice, it was a relationship she developed with one of Clanton’s assistant team doctors who was assigned to the women’s track team that pointed Jamieson in the direction of foot and ankle surgery.
“This team doctor also had run track for my coach when she was a student at Rice,” Jamieson said. “I got to know her and thought she had the coolest job in the world. That is what really sparked my interest in this fascinating field of foot and ankle surgery.”
Jamieson went to medical school at UT-Southwestern in Dallas. She then completed her residency and one year as an attending physician at Ohio State University before coming to Vail to start her one-year fellowship with Clanton and Haytmanek.
From fellow to mentor
Haytmanek is not only one of the lead mentors in his specialty area at The Steadman Clinic, but he is also a product of the foot and ankle fellowship program. Upon completion of his fellowship in 2013-2014, Haytmanek worked at a practice in Boise, Idaho, for a surgeon friend of Clanton’s for three years.
“I don’t think my friend in Boise was too happy with me when we lured Tommy back to Vail,” Clanton said, “but it’s especially nice to have Tommy back and take advantage of all that he learned in his three years in Boise with Michael Coughlin, MD.”
In addition to teaching the fellows in the operating room, Haytmanek also has the unofficial role of younger mentor to the new surgeons.
“I think as a younger attending surgeon, I meld a little more with the fellows,” Haytmanek said. “I try to make myself available to the fellows in a little different way than some of the older attendings. The fellows often ask me more ‘boots on the ground’ type questions since I am less removed from my fellowship and have recently started a medical practice like they will be upon leaving their fellowship. It’s really a special opportunity for all of the fellows here to have a combination of both the more seasoned attendings and a younger one like myself to lean on.
“When the fellows leave us and move on to their next assignment,” Haytmanek continued, “they must realize that we could not possibly show them everything in one year that they will soon encounter as orthopedic surgeons in the world of sports medicine. Our goal is to help them prepare their mental approach and always remember to think about the patient first and what is best for them. Remember your training and always be open to finding new ideas and new methods of treatment.”
Clanton shared similar feelings about preparing the fellows for their future lives in medicine.
“Our goal is to increase their knowledge or skill in a specific sub-specialty area,” Clanton said. “We teach them the knowledge that they need to have in the anatomy of that area and the understanding of the biomechanics specifically in that field. Through our mentorship, we want them to know who can be treated with a non-operative course of care versus someone who needs surgery. And here at SPRI (Steadman Philippon Research Institute) they also participate in significant research that is designed to help them expand that knowledge and to improve the methodology and learning that we are trying to advance in the foot and ankle world.”
A medical laboratory
All fellows spend a great deal of time studying the outcomes-based orthopedic research developed at SPRI that determines how patients have recovered following procedures. They get to work in the biomechanics lab and learn about testing the strength of certain surgical repairs and the reconstruction of injuries. They also have the chance to test surgical procedures and practice in the state-of-the-art surgical lab.
“It’s really like a 24-7-365 medical laboratory at their disposal,” Clanton said. “There really is no better way to learn.”
What will Bartush and Jamieson consider to be their biggest takeaways from this fellowship experience?
“Being a former soccer player and seeing lots of women with foot and ankle injuries has given me some great perspective and is one of the benefits of having played a sport with a lot of foot and ankle injuries,” Bartush said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It really gives Marissa and me the chance to take care of athletes in a more sub-specialized way. Working at The Steadman Clinic and SPRI has also taught me more about what is on the cutting edge of athletic injuries in the foot and ankle population.”
Jamieson’s best takeaway? “All the opportunities that come with this fellowship. The connections that the doctors here have with other physicians throughout the area are incredible. Take for example Drs. Armando and Leslie Vidal. They both just recently joined the staff here at the clinic after many years of practice in the Denver area. They have been so helpful to me in so many ways and their assistance and advice have been critical in helping me find my next professional position following my fellowship.”
That advice from both Vidal’s certainly helped Jamieson as she will join a practice in the Denver area upon the conclusion of her fellowship this summer. Bartush is going back to Texas at the end of her fellowship this January and will be an associate professor at UT Health in San Antonio.
More fellows will come to The Steadman Clinic next summer and it becomes more likely with each passing year that more of them will be women. And it’s quite possible that one of those women might someday join Dr. Leslie Vidal on staff at the Clinic and follow Dr. Haytmanek’s path and return full-time to the Steadman staff.
The goal of The Steadman Clinic (formerly Steadman-Hawkins) is to deliver the highest standard of orthopaedic care and personal attention to each and every patient seeking our help. Learn more