Dr. Nathan Drummond, a hip and knee replacement specialist, began working at Baylor Scott & White Health-Lakeway last September. The San Antonio native attended The University of Texas at Austin for undergraduate studies and did not know he wanted to be a doctor until midway through college when he realized how much he enjoyed his biology and anatomy classes. After attending medical school at The University of Texas Southwestern and finishing his residency at the University of Kansas, he completed an orthopedics fellowship specializing in hip and knee replacement at Columbia University in New York before heading to Lakeway.
How did you select your field of expertise?
When I started medical school I thought I was going to do pediatrics. It seemed like the most fun, happy specialty, but rotating through the different areas I found orthopedics was the best fit for me. Orthopedics is one of the few medical specialties where you see someone and, for the most part, you can get them totally better. They have a problem you’re able to fix; it’s not a chronic issue. In residency I rotated through all different kinds of orthopedics—shoulder surgery, back surgery, sports medicine—and I picked joint replacement to do a fellowship in because it’s the highest satisfaction surgery in all of orthopedics. The vast majority of people are happy with the great, functional results. I wanted to have a clinic with people who are smiling and coming back happy every day.
What should people know about orthopedics?
I wish people knew how good the implants and surgeries we have now are with some of the more recent advances in the field regarding joint replacement. Nowadays, most of the implants we use can last 30 years, though common thinking can be it is ‘going to last me 10 years, then I’m going to have to get this redone,’ but that’s not really the case anymore.
What is a day-to-day challenge you face in your job?
Deciding when the right time for each individual person is to pull the trigger and go ahead with surgery. There are a lot of different things we can do for people with arthritis that are not surgery, such as medications, physical therapy and injections, but then you have to know when it’s the right time for each person to say, ‘Alright that’s enough, let’s replace this joint.’
What do you love most about your job?
My favorite thing is seeing people who are two or six weeks out from surgery come back in and be waltzing down the hallway, whereas before they were on a walker or using a cane. They come back in with a smile—that’s the biggest reason I do this.
What are your research goals?
Part of the research I did while in fellowship and ultimately would like to continue here is about a type of hip replacement surgery called anterior approach hip replacement … [where]the incision is done on the front side of the hip and involves less dissection of the tendons and muscles. … We’re finding more and more that people recover faster in the first three months or so doing hip surgery that way.
What are your plans for the future?
In the nine months I’ve been here, we’ve been able to start building a comprehensive joint-replacement program. Patients meet with a joint-replacement coordinator beforehand who talks to them every step of the way during surgery and then after. It’s been gratifying to be a part of building that here, and we certainly haven’t finished, so one of my goals is making that bigger. We want to be a center that does joint-replacements every day of the week, and at some point that will probably involve hiring a surgeon in addition to myself. My goal is to stay rooted here and make this a place where people come to have a joint replaced.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.