Walter Truong, MD has worked as a Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon at Gillette Children's for nearly ten years. Dr. Truong specializes in treating scoliosis (Idiopathic, Neuromuscular and Congenital), pediatric hip and knee conditions, traumatic injuries, lower extremity alignment concerns and fractures.
Learn more about him, here:
What brought you to Gillette?
I found Gillette during my search for residencies near the end of medical school. I was looking for a program that was strong in pediatric orthopedics, because I knew that's what I wanted to do.
The University of Minnesota had a great program that was well-rounded in terms of the other things I was interested in, but also had a really strong pediatric orthopedics portion of it that would be done at Gillette. So, I actually chose my residency program because of Gillette. I never did a rotation here. I had no family in the area. What brought me to Gillette was their reputation.
When I finished my residency, I thought I was going to go home to Calgary, Alberta, to practice after all my training, but my wife and I really fell in love with the area and the Twin Cities. We had our first child at the end of my residency and at one point my wife asked me, "What if we just stay? What do you think about that?"
I thought about it and I asked Gillette if they were looking for a surgeon and they said they were. I decided that this was where I wanted to be and where I’d get to pursue the things that I wanted to do. Gillette offered me a job before I left for my fellowship. So, it really all worked out. Almost like the stars aligned for it.
How have you changed since you started working here?
Since starting here, I've had my second child. Watching my children grow, I think I understand more of the anxiety that parents go through putting their child's wellbeing in the hands of somebody else, and really taking that to heart when you're taking care of your patients.
Also, I think that I've taken on more roles. As you become a more senior surgeon, you do more teaching, more research, more administrative roles, and you get a better appreciation of the complexity of how hard it is to have a well-run hospital. It's more than just taking care of that patient in that room or in the operating room. It takes a lot of people, a lot of work and a lot of coordination. I think I appreciate that more now than I did in the past.
Why did you enter your field?
Going into medicine, I always knew I wanted to take care of kids. So, I knew I was going to do something in pediatrics.
Orthopedics also gave me the opportunity to operate, which I fell in love with in medical school. Surgery is never our first option, but when needed, the kind of immediacy and the impact that you can make with it is so great.
Medicine and surgery just kind of perfectly suited all of the things I love to do and I'm interested in (science, biology, genetics). Pediatric orthopedic surgery just puts that all together. Then with the sports I play all the time and the biomechanics behind that, that just fits with orthopedic surgery. So, it's all the things I love all combined into one.
Outside of work, how do you like to spend your time?
Outside of work, I think I try to stay active with my kids. We try to bike at least four or five times a week, which is as simple as going to the grocery store or dropping off some mail, or just any excuse to get out of the house and bike somewhere. I also play basketball at least once a week. That's on hold because of COVID, but before COVID, that was a regular thing. Coaching my son's recreational basketball team was always a highlight, which is also on hold this year.
We’re looking forward to the winter, because of more outdoor stuff. We can get back into some snowboarding and skiing and that'll be fun.
What do you love most about your job?
I think the thing I love the most, actually, is not the straightforward things, where the parents come in and they already know what's wrong and they just want you to fix it. It's the times where they come in and something's wrong and they just don't know why. It's the going through the steps of figuring out what's wrong, especially if they've been to lots of places and lots of people and they can't figure it out, and being able to give them answers or if you can, at least make their life better and get them through it.
What is your approach to meeting a new patient and their family?
I think the most important thing about meeting a new family and getting to know them is trying to figure out where their anxiety lies, and what they want to know about what the future holds. Before they leave that meeting, you want to educate them about the condition and what things could look like going forward. If it’s surgery, or brace treatment, or what if we do nothing, or what's the chance of something bad happening? Those are all things they should know.
Every family is different. Some of them just want to be told what we think we should do and move forward. Others want to know every option possible before coming to a decision together. You have to flesh that out from the family. Our goal is to present all of the options. Because they need to know what we’re doing and why we're doing it and be 100% on board. Otherwise, we shouldn't move forward.
At Gillette we try to avoid the paternalistic and “Telling other people what to do approach.” That’s ineffective and often prevents getting the buy-in that you need from the patient and their family. We are providing medical care, but it needs to be a partnership in which we’re all working together towards the same goal.
What is an interesting fact about you?
I guess one of the unique things about me is that I have a United Nations birth certificate.
My family and I are refugees from Vietnam. My mom was five months pregnant with me when they fled in 1978. So, they ended up in a Malaysian refugee camp. I was born there. My brother was born there a year later. Because we were in a refugee camp, we're not Malaysian citizens. We're not Vietnamese citizens. With our United Nations birth certificates, it means we're not citizens anywhere. It's something that not too many people have, but that's something that's unique about us.
In a time where some families might feel reticent to come in for certain procedures, what message would you have for them?
I would reassure them that Gillette has taken all of the precautions necessary, based on all the CDC guidelines related to COVID-19.
This protects our staff as well as our other patients. So, certainly, having surgery here is actually extremely safe.
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