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Meet the Physicians Creating Better Understanding of Limb Differences

April marks Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness of limb differences across all ages. Gillette Children's, home to nationally and internationally recognized leaders in pediatric orthopedics, is helping to lead the way to greater understanding through education and advocacy. Gillette boasts a rich history of pioneering advancements in both upper and lower limb conditions. Read more to learn about the dedicated physicians who have been at the forefront of that mission. 

Deborah Bohn, MD and Ann Van Heest, MD. 

Gillette orthopedic surgeons, Deborah Bohn, MD and Ann Van Heest, MD. 

Hand surgeons provide education and research to doctors from around the world

Since taking over the pediatric hand surgery program started by James House, MD, more than 30 years ago, Gillette orthopedic hand surgeons Ann Van Heest, MD, and Deborah Bohn, MD, have been making strides in improving research and treatment options. In 2023, they presented a total of five papers at the World Symposium on Congenital Malformations of the Hand and Upper Limb. The symposium gathered hand surgeons and upper limb difference specialists from six continents and 37 countries in Minneapolis, effectively solidifying Gillette’s place on the world stage.  

“Gillette has a very strong pediatric hand surgery research team led by Susan Novotny, PhD,” says Van Heest. “Plus, we have medical students and fellows who learn a lot from working with our patient population at Gillette.” 

“We provide many unique services for patients who have upper limb differences,” Van Heest adds. “Unlike many other hospitals, Gillette can provide simultaneous surgeries so that when a child has hand differences on both hands then we do the surgery simultaneously. This means that the child has half the anesthetic time.” 

Proud To Be Me, a board book written by orthopedic surgeons, Deborah Bohn, MD, and Ann Van Heest, MD, and illustrated by Rick Korab.

Proud To Be Me, a board book written by orthopedic surgeons, Deborah Bohn, MD, and Ann Van Heest, MD, and illustrated by Rick Korab. 

Van Heest and Bohn were pleased that their book, Proud To Be Me, published by Gillette Children’s Health Care Press, was handed out to symposium participants. It’s a colorful board book that is designed to teach toddlers about children of all abilities. The book teaches children about physical differences and promotes self-confidence. 

The official author name on the book cover is “Polly Daktilly.” This is a play on the condition polydactyly—which means extra fingers. “If you’re familiar with hand difference conditions you might smile at the author name on the cover,” Bohn says. 

Van Heest has already received nice feedback on the book from doctors around the world. “People have gotten a chuckle out of it,” Van Heest says. “A few people have also told me they get a few tears after reading it. For me, that’s fantastic.” 

Proud To Be Me was funded by the James House, MD, MS, Fund for Hand and Upper Extremity Excellence at Gillette Children’s. All of the proceeds from the book go back to the fund to support ongoing research and care by Gillette’s orthopedic hand and upper extremity team. 

The Gillette Press book Proud To Be Me is available via

Mark Dahl, MD, poses with a happy patient

Mark Dahl, MD, poses with a happy patient 

A first of its kind “how-to” guide on limb reconstruction

In addition to pediatric hand surgery, Gillette Children's excels in limb lengthening and deformity correction—a burgeoning subspecialty within orthopedic surgery. Mark Dahl, MD, a worldwide expert in limb reconstruction, leads the limb length and deformity services at Gillette. Working with fellow pediatric orthopedic surgeons Nick Nahm, MD, and Andrew Georgiadis, MD, the three form a multidisciplinary team dedicated to providing comprehensive care for patients with limb differences. They recently published a paper in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons on the challenges and treatment options for genu recurvatum-valgus, a condition where the knee bends backward and tilts outward due to various causes like trauma or skeletal issues. 

This year, they are working on a first of its kind “how-to” guide for clinicians and surgeons caring for patients with a limb length inequality or limb deformity.

“Only a handful of texts exist in the subdiscipline of limb reconstruction and lengthening,” says Dahl. “Most are dense texts that rarely highlight practical examples. Some show radiographic results, but very little in the way of step-by-step instructions on operational execution.  This book will be a guide based on lessons learned over a long and unique limb reconstruction career.” 

Nick Nahm, MD and Andrew Georgiadis, MD 

From left: Nick Nahm, MD and Andrew Georgiadis, MD 

The book, titled Limb Lengthening and Deformity Correction: Principles and Practice will teach clinicians to implement core technical principles and avoid common errors in limb reconstruction surgery. By highlighting a broad and complex array of cases and multiple methods of surgical correction, readers will learn about surgical planning in many scenarios. 

Limb Lengthening and Deformity Correction: Principles and Practice will be published by Gillette Press and is expected for release in 2025.  

Paving the way for a more inclusive and compassionate future 

Alongside advocacy and education for limb difference, there are many Gillette physicians lending their expertise to create books on other conditions. In December of this year, Gillette Press is excited to publish a new series of books covering how a condition develops over the lifespan and evidence-based, best-practice treatments. The first six titles will be Craniosynostosis, Scoliosis, Epilepsy, Spastic Hemiplegia, Spastic Quadriplegia, and Spastic Diplegia (second edition). Three more titles in the series will be published in 2025. Following the style of Gillette Press’s first publication Spastic Diplegia, each title is led by Gillette providers supported by a Gillette writer, with a family contributing the unique perspective that comes with lived experience.   

From introducing advancements in treatment and research to innovative publications, Gillette's commitment to education and advocacy knows no bounds. Our unique clinical team - paired with one of the only hospital-owned and operated publishing presses in the world - guides our mission of creating greater understanding of the conditions we treat.