Physician Spotlight

New Vascular Surgery Chief Stays a Step Ahead

Dr. Kwame Amankwah

Dr. Kwame Amankwah may be new to UConn Health, but he has already made a big impact on the Department of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery.

In his first few months, he performed an aortic dissection repair with a newly approved device that not only covers the tear that caused the dissection but also helps to heal the rest of the aorta and prevent further tears from developing. It was the first procedure with this device at UConn and the second in the state. Amankwah had performed this same procedure in New York, the first of its kind in that state and only the second in the country.

Throughout his career, Amankwah has been among the first to use new technologies for inferior vena cava filters, devices for aortic work, therapies for the removal of clots within the arterial and venous systems, and a device for patients with pulmonary embolisms. The pulmonary embolism device was eventually approved for use in the U.S., and Amankwah was on the data safety review board for the study. He brings all of his experience and expertise to UConn Health. “The goal of all of this is to make UConn a destination center for vascular and endovascular care in the region,” he says.

Amankwah feels the best place to cultivate innovative technology and care is at an academic medical center.

“You get the benefits of interacting with different people, including basic science researchers and clinicians in other departments who are involved in cutting-edge research of their own,” he says. “At an academic medical center, you get a global view of different technologies and different specialties, and you might be able to incorporate some of those things into your own practice.”

Another benefit of working at an academic medical facility, he says, is shaping the future of medicine by working with medical students and residents. Amankwah’s background is steeped in education, and he even writes questions for many national medical exams for medical students and residents.

Looking to the future, Amankwah hopes to offer more new therapies to his patients, specifically new endovascular devices used for thoracoabdominal aneurysms with an upcoming clinical trial that he plans to participate in. “There’s always new technology on the horizon in vascular surgery,” he says. “It’s an exciting time to be practicing medicine.”

Benign Breast Disease Specialist Provides Follow-Up and Reassurance

Dr. Dana Scott, OB/GYN


While it would be a huge relief for a patient to find out a growth in her breast is noncancerous, she might still require follow-up care. That’s where Dr. Dana Scott comes in.

Scott, who recently joined UConn Health’s obstetrics and gynecology team at the Charlotte Johnson Hollfelder Center for Women’s Health, specializes in breast health and cancer genetics. In addition to providing routine OB/GYN care, Scott is referred patients who have breast issues that aren’t cancer.

These might include breast pain, breast infections, noncancerous lumps, and fibroadenomas. Some patients with benign breast disease may need an excision while others simply need continuing check-ups. Additionally, she sees patients at high risk for breast and gynecologic malignancies due to their family history and/or a genetic mutation.

“Benign breast disease is a common issue that arises, but it’s not something that typically has received a lot of focus in medical care,” Scott says.

Being able to develop a benign breast disease program, which is unique in the area, drew Scott to UConn Health, she says. “The chair of my department [Dr. Molly Brewer] was very open-minded and eager to have someone with a different background and training. The surgical oncologist [Dr. Christina Stevenson] was very open to working with me and developing a mechanism for women with benign breast diseases to receive care.”

As part of an American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology committee, Scott is working to develop new screening guidelines for those at risk for early-onset breast cancer, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Scott stresses that it is important for OB/GYN and primary care doctors to get good family histories from patients. They should also lower their threshold for referring patients to a genetic counselor.

“Genetic testing for risks of breast, ovarian, and other cancers has become a lot more accessible and affordable,” she says.

In addition to her unique background, patients will find a listening ear in Scott.

“I try to really listen to my patients and spend the appropriate amount of time with them to hear their concerns,” she says. “Especially with the breast patients, a lot of them are really worried that they have breast cancer, and when they learn they don’t, having someone who can listen to them, thoroughly examine them, and provide follow-up and reassurance is really important.”

Trauma Director Puts Patients First

Emergency vehicle heading towards an emergency room


As he marks his first year as Medical Director of Trauma at UConn Health, Dr. Ryan Millea hasn’t lost focus on what drives him, whether responding at a moment’s notice to the surgical needs of a car accident victim or to an intensive care patient with a life-threatening gastrointestinal burst.

“My philosophy is to always deliver patient-centered care,” says Millea, who is also a general and critical care surgeon. “I’m very hands-on to improve a patient’s overall experience. No one likes being sick, so I try to make things as seamless and smooth as possible from preoperative care to recovery.”

I’m very hands-on to improve a patient’s overall experience.

Millea applies this attitude not only on a patient-by-patient level but also through large-scale initiatives to better the experience of all surgical and critical care patients.
For one, Millea is leading efforts to make UConn John Dempsey Hospital an American College of Surgeons–verified trauma center, improving systems to optimize trauma care and become a certified center of excellence for patients in the Farmington Valley.

In addition to overseeing the treatment of each critically ill trauma patient at UConn Health, Millea’s board certifications and experience in general surgery and surgical critical care mean he can provide a wide range of skilled care.

“My experience as a critical care surgeon allows me to treat the highest- risk patients who have complex, coexisting medical issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease,” Millea says.

As a general surgeon, Millea focuses primarily on surgeries involving the gastrointestinal tract, including appendix or gallbladder removals and hernia surgeries.
Because of his dedication to maintaining an excellent experience for his patients, the majority of general surgical procedures Millea conducts are outpatient, minimally invasive procedures, often done laparoscopically. Recently, Millea and other general surgeons at UConn Health began offering robotic general surgery operations for such procedures as complex hernia repair.

A Massachusetts native, Millea says UConn Health is the perfect place to put his unique skill set to use.

“I joined UConn Health to be part of an academic medical institution with a strong focus on patient care. A cutting-edge academic medical center affords each of my patients access to the most modern approaches and treatments for their surgical diseases.”

Class of 2009 Med Students Return to Practice at UConn Health

Class of 2009 reunite. From left: Dr. Sara Tabtabai, Dr. Ben Ristau, Dr. Todd Falcone, and Dr. Marilyn Katz

From left: Dr. Sara Tabtabai, Dr. Ben Ristau, Dr. Todd Falcone, and Dr. Marilyn Katz


TThe UConn School of Medicine graduating class of 2009 is experiencing a mini-reunion at UConn Health, with five doctors from the class now practicing here.

Dr. Todd Falcone (ear, nose, and throat), Dr. Marilyn Katz (internal medicine), Dr. Ben Ristau (urologic oncology), Dr. Sara Tabtabai (cardiology), and Dr. Rafael Pacheco (radiology) came back with fond memories of their time as UConn medical students.

Katz says she knew the UConn School of Medicine was a match right away. “I loved everyone I met on my interview day — students, faculty, and staff — and canceled all my other interviews once I received my acceptance.”

Falcone joined UConn Health in 2014. “I had an excellent time here, and I credit the School of Medicine for preparing me to match into a competitive residency program and become a competent and caring physician and educator. I do not believe I could have received a better medical school education anywhere else.”

The five physicians say their medical school connections help them deliver better patient care today. “Rafael Pacheco and I were medical interns together as he was doing his prelim year prior to radiology,” Katz shares. “It was great to discuss similar patient cases with him then, and knowing I can call him now to discuss testing is a huge benefit as a primary care physician.”

A Team Approach Improves Lung Cancer Care

illustration; team of people overlook blue lineart in the shape of a human lung


As director of thoracic oncology and interventional pulmonology at UConn Health, Dr. Omar Ibrahim has been working hard to personalize and improve the experience of lung cancer patients.

“As a result of enhancing individualized care, the number of lung cancer patients UConn Health cares for has been rapidly increasing,” says Ibrahim. “We have immensely improved a patient’s time to diagnosis and treatment, as well as the overall quality of care they receive. Plus, our program’s advanced diagnostic imaging and rapid-sequence genetic testing has allowed us to get patients proper therapy in the most effective way possible.”

According to Ibrahim, UConn Health is one of a few institutions in the Northeast to consolidate how they care for lung cancer patients.

“Rather than having patients visit multiple physicians in different locations on our campus, we focus all our care for lung cancer patients in one multidisciplinary clinic,” says Ibrahim, who led the specialized clinic’s development. “This allows for ease of care and greater patient satisfaction and increases the patient’s knowledge.”

We have immensely improved a patient’s time to diagnosis and treatment, as well as the overall quality of care they receive.

The biggest risk factor for lung cancer, which kills more Americans than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined, is smoking. Ibrahim passionately urges current and former heavy smokers to get screened for the disease with a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan at UConn Health’s Lung Cancer Screening Program at the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Our goal is to find lung cancer at its earliest stage so we can have options to treat it and cure it,” Ibrahim says.

If a low-dose CT scan catches a suspicious lung nodule or growth, Ibrahim leverages minimally invasive techniques to rule out lung cancer, or diagnose and identify what stage the disease is at. He uses video-guided 3-D navigational bronchoscopy technology and ultrasound in the exam room to closely examine a patient’s lung tissue using a thin, flexible tube via the nose or mouth. The technology also allows for small lung tissue biopsy samples to be taken.

But Ibrahim is not only proud of improving his patient’s experience and outcomes.

“What I am truly proud of is the team effort of everyone involved with a lung cancer patient’s care, from the staffer greeting them at the door to the nurse infusing their chemotherapy. They all are doing an immense job.”

Women on Women’s Health

By Kim Krieger

Photography by Tina Encarnacion

line art of woman doctor and patient

Women doctors were a rarity in the U.S. until just a few decades ago, and it wasn’t easy for a woman seeking a female obstetrician or general practitioner to find one. But times have changed — women surgeons, doctors, and health care practitioners of all sorts are everywhere.

At UConn Health, we’re proud to have an army of women caring for women in every specialty, as doctors, therapists, and nurses. Many have advanced degrees and research projects in addition to their clinical work.

We spoke to just a few of the many, many women who do research and provide clinical care for other women at UConn Health. We asked them why they do what they do, how caring for women is different than caring for men, and anything else they thought was important. This is what they said.


Gynecological Surgery

I need you to take it easy for just one week.

Dr. Danielle Luciano’s patients are usually younger women with pelvic pain or unmanageable periods related to uterine fibroids or endometriosis. Luciano tries medical treatments with the women first. If that doesn’t work, she offers minimally invasive surgery that solves the pain while sparing her patients’ fertility.

Dr. Danielle Luciano

Dr. Danielle Luciano cares for women throughout their lifespans.

“As an OB/GYN, I take care of my patients throughout their lifespan. I might remove their endometriosis when they are young,” and help them in menopause too. As a fellow woman, she can relate to her patients and perhaps give them more convincing advice than a male doctor might.

“I’ve had some babies, and I’ve had to have some things fixed afterwards, so I know where they’re coming from,” Luciano says. “I can say, ‘Look, I know you’re going to go home and try to do 1,000 things. But I need you to take it easy for just one week.’”

Fibroids and endometriosis affect a lot of women, around 10 percent. Oftentimes these conditions run in families, and a mom may normalize it when her daughter suffers, explaining the same thing happened to her. But if a woman has miserable periods with such heavy bleeding, terrible pain, or gastrointestinal symptoms that she can’t work or go to school, there could be something wrong that Luciano can help with.

Professions sometimes run in families, too. Luciano’s father, Dr. Anthony Luciano, is also an OB/GYN at UConn Health, specializing in reproductive endocrinology and minimally invasive surgery.

“Initially I didn’t want to do anything he did — but the more I learned, the more I wanted to have that skill and expertise,” Luciano says.

She and he now work together; he is a member of the Center of Excellence for Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery at UConn Health. She is the director.

Breastfeeding

If lactation is a superpower, nursing is an art.

If lactation is like a superpower — a woman makes milk, and it’s perfectly nourishing, antibacterial, immunity-boosting, and always exactly the right temperature — then nursing is more of an art, a skill women learn by observation or instruction.

But fairly often in the U.S., women have trouble with it, and end up pumping or formula feeding even if they’d rather nurse.

“Whenever we talk about breastfeeding it becomes a very hot and emotional conversation,” UConn nurse-scientist Ruth Lucas, Ph.D., RN, says. She wants to cool that conversation off with data.

Lucas spent 20 years working as a nurse and lactation specialist, “supporting mom in whatever way she can feed her baby and feel good about herself.” But the more she saw, the more she wondered why for so many women breastfeeding just didn’t work. So she turned to research, and her first project has zeroed in on pain during nursing. Why does it happen, and how can we help women who want to nurse but find it agonizing?

She’s finishing up a pilot study that tracked women who initiated breastfeeding, their experiences, and their gene variants that might be linked with pain. And that’s just the start. She’s also interested in the baby side of the equation: different babies approach breastfeeding differently. Does this affect mom’s pain? Does the pain change the breastmilk? Does that affect the babies?

“We all want to grow and nurture our children,” Lucas says. She wants to nurture the women, too.

Pelvic Health

Cultural taboos prevent patients from admitting that they have issues.

Lauren Brennan and Cathy Trahiotis want you to talk to your patients about peeing. And sex. Also bowel movements. Like, how often does your patient poop?

“If they say ‘once a week,' you know there’s a problem,” Brennan says, laughing. She’s a family nurse practitioner who works in the urology practice at UConn Health. Trahiotis is a physical therapist who specializes in women’s pelvic health. And they’re on a mission to educate people — and alleviate people’s fears — about incontinence and other pelvic problems.

Recent studies have found that almost half of adult women experience either stress incontinence — involuntary urination when coughing or exercising — or urge incontinence, when they feel the urge to urinate but can’t get to a toilet in time.

“But it’s not normal to have incontinence! We can treat it,” says Trahiotis.

Dr. Cathy Trahiotis and Dr. Lauren Brennan

Cathy Trahiotis and Lauren Brennan want docs to talk to patients about peeing. And sex.

She notes that for some women, pregnancy can be the start of pelvic issues. The heavy, swelling uterus presses on nerves in the pelvis, stretches ligaments, and separates the abdominal muscles (a condition called diastasis recti). After birth, if the abdominals don’t knit back together, it leads to weakness that can force the pelvic muscles to compensate, stressing them and potentially causing pubic pain or incontinence.

Fortunately diastasis recti can usually be cured with physical therapy. Other issues involving the pelvic muscles can be similarly healed through specific exercise, stretching, and diet.

In her urology practice, Brennan often sees patients with dyspareunia, or painful sex. It can often be treated. But it’s almost never the reason the patient made the appointment, Brennan notes. She always has to ask.

Both Brennan and Trahiotis say cultural taboos against discussing bodily functions prevent patients from admitting to their doctor that they have issues. So doctors should bring it up first. Ask patients directly: “How’s sex for you? Is it comfortable? Do you have any issues you’d like to talk about?” Ask about peeing and bowel movements. Or if your patients are super shy about discussing it, perhaps a written questionnaire would be better.

No matter how you do it, Trahiotis and Brennan say, the bottom line is “know about it, talk about it, don’t be afraid! And fix it without surgery!”

Dermatology

Sometimes she’ll point out something I can’t see. That’s when I reassure her.

The trick to drawing out a patient’s concerns about her skin is to hand her a mirror, says UConn Health dermatologist Dr. Mona Shahriari.
“Sometimes she’ll point out something I can’t see. That’s when I reassure her. I’m a trained dermatologist, and if I can’t see it, the world probably can’t, either.”

Dr. Mona Shahriari

Dr. Mona Shahriari wants women to feel like at least once, they're being taken care of.

Shahriari has seen a lot. The year before she entered medical school, she volunteered to work with individuals exposed to radiation and chemicals during the Iran-Iraq War. They had a tendency to grow bizarre forms of skin cancer. Many of them would try to hide the growth and ignore it. And now, even though she’s practicing medicine on the other side of the planet with an entirely different population, some of her female patients have a similar problem.

“They’re so busy caring for their families they forget to care for themselves. Women often show up with undiagnosed skin diseases” they’ve been ignoring, says Shariari. When they finally do make it to her office, she gives them the time they need. Most of the time her women patients come to her with concerns about skin cancer, but there’s usually another underlying worry: aging.

“Society makes women very self-conscious about their appearance,” says Shahriari. And their skin is readily visible to the world. So she listens, and helps them. Ultimately, a patient may need bloodwork, a biopsy, laser treatment, or reassurance. But no matter what, “I make them feel like at least once, they’re being taking care of. Their concerns are the priority.”

Gynecologic Oncology

Some women say “I just can’t do this anymore.” But we have lots of options to help.

The patients keep her going. Many of the women are overweight. A lot of them have diabetes and high blood pressure. They don’t heal well; they’re greater surgical risks; they’re medically fragile. And yet, they keep going. And so does she.

“I love my patients,” says gynecologic oncologist Dr. Molly Brewer, chair of UConn Health’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “They endure so many incredibly hard treatments. They’re an inspiration.”

Dr. Molly Brewer

Dr. Molly Brewer says getting cancer patients healthy and back to their lives makes the challenges of her job worth it.

Typically, the women are referred to her by primary care physicians, gynecologists, or emergency room doctors when the women show up with a suspicious lump in their abdomen, cervix, or vulva. Such patients are usually urgent, and Brewer always gets them into her office within a week or less. If they don’t have cancer, she sends them back to their regular doctor. But if they do have cancer, she cares for them from the beginning to the end, performing surgery to remove the mass, treating it with anti-cancer drugs, and helping them through into remission. She also cares for certain breast cancer patients who suffer from unique gynecological issues. Certain drugs used to prevent a recurrence of the cancer can cause vaginal atrophy because they suppress estrogen, for example.

“Vaginal atrophy makes sex really painful. Some women say ‘I just can’t do this anymore.’ But we have lots of options” to help, Brewer says.

Her research centers on ovarian cancer and new technologies to diagnose it. She and her partner, newly arrived gynecologic oncologist Dr. Bradford Whitcomb*, are currently enrolling patients for an ovarian cancer vaccine study.

She chose gynecologic oncology because she loves it, and she loves it because of the patients. The challenge of taking care of women with difficult cancers, and the inspiration of watching them make
it through.

“When we get them into remission, they’re healthier, they feel better, they’re able to go back to their life. And that makes it all worth it.”

New Gynecologic Oncologist Stresses Early Detection, Gentle Care

Dr. Bradford P. Whitcomb


Dr. Bradford Whitcomb is UConn Health’s newest gynecologic oncologist. He specializes in the holistic care of women with endometrial, cervical, or ovarian cancer or precancerous conditions.

With the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology chair Dr. Molly Brewer, Whitcomb provides full-service gynecologic oncology services including advanced imaging, biopsies, chemotherapy, radiation, and minimally invasive or open surgery at the state-of-the-art Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at UConn Health’s Outpatient Pavilion and at UConn John Dempsey Hospital.

Each patient also has access to a vast group of UConn Health’s multi-specialists, cutting-edge clinical research trials, and support services.

“It is so important to me to treat each of my patients like my own family member with the most personalized, comprehensive patient care experience, and the kindest and gentlest approach,” Whitcomb says. “It is so personally satisfying to me to have the ability each day to help women and their families through their cancer diagnosis and care.”

Whitcomb is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel who served in the Army Medical Department for more than 25 years. He also was deployed several times in Iraq and Afghanistan as an OB/GYN, surgical assistant, and combat research team member.

It is important to me to treat each of my patients like my own family member.

“The Army was a conduit for me to attend medical school and have the privilege to care for women my entire career,” says Whitcomb. “Women run our families. It’s critical for women to remain healthy and team with their doctors to ensure they are having their annual primary care and GYN screenings, which are the basis for preventing illness and catching a female cancer early.”

According to Whitcomb, most gynecological cancers have early warning signs that women need to stay ahead of with their doctors. These may include unusual bleeding, abdominal pain, bloating, and difficulty eating. Other concerns include increased risks of endometrial or uterine cancer as obesity rates among women rise, as well as making greater efforts to increase cancer screenings among underserved female populations.

But Whitcomb reports the biggest challenge in gynecologic oncology is still preventing and catching ovarian cancer, the most lethal cancer in women, early. He is currently working with Dr. Pramod Srivastava, director of the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center, to recruit newly diagnosed ovarian cancer patients to the world’s first clinical trial testing a unique genomics-driven immunotherapy vaccine aimed at preventing the disease’s recurrence.

“Bottom line, to beat female cancers we need open lines of communication with both referring primary care and OB/GYN physicians, and women need to feel comfortable reaching out directly for consultation,” Whitcomb says. “Don’t hesitate to make that call. The UConn Health family is here to help.”

Transgender Care in Focus

Britta Shute, FNP, (left) talks to Dr. Rebecca Andrews in the UConn Health Outpatient Pavilion. Both are primary care and family medicine practitioners who treat a number of transgender patients.

Britta Shute, FNP, (left) talks to Dr. Rebecca Andrews in the UConn Health Outpatient Pavilion. Both are primary care and family medicine practitioners who treat a number of transgender patients.


UConn Health’s trans-competent health care providers are on a mission to enhance access to comprehensive care for the 12,400 transgender adults living in Connecticut.

Transgender is an umbrella term that may be used to describe individuals whose gender expression does not conform to cultural norms and/or who identify differently from their sex assigned at birth. There are 1.4 million transgender adults in the U.S.

Though individuals may self-identify as transgender, it’s not a term that all gender nonconforming people use: individuals may not identify as the male or female gender they were born or as any gender at all, or they may consider themselves to be gender fluid, with both male and female traits.

“Our hope is to raise greater gender-identity awareness among health care providers to improve the transgender patient experience,” said Dr. Rebecca Andrews, associate professor of medicine at UConn Health. “Given our societal norms, transgender patients can often feel pressure to characterize their gender as either male or female. But during their health care visits and beyond, they should just get to be whoever they truly want to be, while having their unique health needs addressed.”

Providers should be aware that not all transgender patients choose to alter their physical presentation with hormone replacement therapy or surgery.

Transgender persons often encounter extra daily stressors during childhood through adulthood that place them at greater risk for psychological and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and suicide. In a national study by The Trevor Project, 40 percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. Most of these cases are thought to be due to lack of access to appropriate mental health support and medical care, so the World Professional Association for Transgender Health advocates for collaboration between medical and mental health providers for most trans individuals.

In addition to providing appropriate care, “our goal at UConn Health is to empower transgender patients to be more comfortable seeking health care, and also to arm health care providers with the latest information they need to best care for the patient population,” said Britta Shute, FNP, of the Department of Family Medicine at UConn Health, who specializes in transgender patient care. “Spread the word. We are here at UConn Health for transgender patients,” Shute says.

To train the next generation of physicians, UConn School of Medicine’s new MDelta curriculum incorporates more education about transgender care.

New Neurosurgery Chief Brings Elite Expertise to UConn Health

Dr.Ketan R. Bulsara speaks with patient inside patient room in UConn Health, Farmington CT USA


Dr. Ketan R. Bulsara, a world-renowned neurosurgeon, brings an unparalleled range of expertise in treating neurological disorders to UConn Health as the new chief of the Division of Neurosurgery.

Bulsara came to UConn Health from Yale, where he built successful programs in neurovascular and skull base surgery. He has trained with the pioneers in neurosurgery and is an author on many national and international guidelines
and standards.

Bulsara is among an elite few neurosurgeons in the world with dedicated dual fellowship training in skull base/cerebrovascular microsurgery and endovascular surgery. He is directing both of those disciplines in UConn Health’s Department of Surgery in addition to serving as chief of neurosurgery.

“Dr. Bulsara is a world-class neurosurgeon who brings a level of expertise that is almost unheard of in the field,” says Dr. David McFadden, chair of the UConn Health Department of Surgery. “Whether it’s complex tumors, aneurysms, or any sort of brain- or nerve-related problem, he is well-equipped to offer a full range of treatment options.”

That includes the full spectrum of treatment of both hemorrhagic stroke and ischemic stroke. Bulsara was an early adopter of mechanical thrombectomy, a procedure in which the surgeon removes a clot from a blocked blood vessel going to the brain. Bulsara’s collaboration with UConn Health’s stroke program puts UConn Health in a position to handle these more complex cranial cases.

Bulsara also will be involved in UConn Health’s efforts to expand its epilepsy program to include neurosurgical treatments, and will be recruiting additional neurosurgeons with other areas of expertise.

“It’s always been my dream to establish a world-class destination center for neurosurgical care,” Bulsara says. “Neurosurgery, the way I look at it, is a multidisciplinary specialty. The focus of my division is to optimize patient outcome. We’ll build a team that’s tailored and personalized for every single patient. Ultimately, as a team, we provide the best care for the patients.”

Hand, Wrist, and Elbow Team Brings Innovation

3 doctors stand together, Dr. Craig Rodner (left), Dr. Joel Ferreira (center), and  Dr. Anthony Parrino (right) Farmington, Southington

Dr. Anthony Parrino (left) – Farmington, Southington
Dr. Craig Rodner (center) – Avon, Farmington
Dr. Joel Ferreira (right) – Farmington, Storrs Center

Photo: Janine Gelineau


Hands, wrists, and elbows are complex and fragile. No matter our age or profession, we are prone to upper extremity injuries throughout our lifetime, along with diseases such as arthritis and tendonitis as we age.

Dr. Craig Rodner and new recruits Dr. Joel Ferreira and Dr. Anthony Parrino, who are both former UConn orthopaedic surgery residents, form the UConn Musculoskeletal Institute’s team, offering patients comprehensive surgical and non-surgical care in this area. All three specialists have completed advanced training during prestigious fellowships in hand, wrist, and elbow orthopedic surgery.

The Hand, Wrist, and Elbow Program at UConn Health offers advanced care for both children and adults for all bone and soft-tissue conditions of the upper extremity. The team cares for people from all walks of life who have pain from repetitive activity, acute trauma, or sports-related injury — from weekend warriors to the elite athletes of the UConn Huskies sports teams. Comprehensive care approaches include patient activity modification, physical therapy, bracing, steroid injections, and, if necessary, surgery.

Innovative surgical interventions are offered for arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, fractures, tendon and nerve damage, sports injuries, Dupuytren’s contractures, hand deformities, and more. These interventions include enhanced minimally invasive, arthroscopic, and microscopic surgical techniques leading to faster, less painful recovery.

The expansion of the team this past year to include Ferreira and Parrino brought specialized training in all aspects of elbow surgery, daily access to the hand surgeon experts, as well as expanded patient access to cutting-edge “wide-awake” painless hand surgery for certain conditions. Using a localized numbing medication in “wide-awake” procedures allows patients, if they so choose, to drive to and from the procedure, avoid the use of sedation, and recover more rapidly.

“Our goal at the UConn Musculoskeletal Institute is to get our patients back to functioning where they were before injury or disease affected them,” says Parrino. Ferreira adds: “We offer the absolute highest-quality, personalized care that there is to each and every patient to find the best surgical or non-surgical solution for an individual problem.”

While the number one focus of the hand, wrist, and elbow team is providing the highest possible level of compassionate care to each patient, Rodner, Ferreira, and Parrino are also dedicated to upper extremity research and education and are actively involved in teaching the students at the UConn School of Medicine and the residents of the UConn orthopedic surgery program about all facets of upper extremity care.