Meet Brendan A. Williams, MD, an attending pediatric orthopaedic surgeon with the Division of Orthopaedics and the Sports Medicine and Performance Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
Dr. Williams has been at CHOP for four years and has enjoyed getting to know many patients and families through his work with Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. He currently sees patients at both CHOP Campuses in Philadelphia and King of Prussia, and at CHOP Specialty Care Centers in Bucks County, Abington and Brandywine Valley.
Dr. Williams attended medical school at Columbia University in New York, served as chief resident at the University of Florida Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation in Gainesville, FL, and completed three fellowships in pediatric orthopaedic surgery (CHOP), orthopaedic research (University of Florida), and pediatric orthopaedic research (Columbia).
Dr. Williams recently sat down for an informal Q&A to discuss a gamut of topics including why he treats patients like family, his unrelenting love of learning, his research interest in kneecap injuries, and what he wishes patients knew about him.
Q: What do you like most about working with children with orthopaedic conditions?
A: I was drawn to pediatric orthopaedics as a career because its focus is solely on restoring function, reducing pain and getting kids back to doing the things they love. There is nothing more gratifying for me than helping an injured child feel better.
Q: What’s your advice to families coming to CHOP?
A: As a parent of two children, I know that going anywhere for medical care can be daunting, especially if you are unfamiliar with the place or the providers you are going to see. But having worked at CHOP for 4 years, I can tell parents from first-hand experience that CHOP is an incredible place filled with amazing people across all departments who are singularly focused on helping your child. My advice to families is to rest assured that when you come to CHOP you are getting top-notch care from people who are truly passionate about what they do.
Q: Is there a specific condition or treatment that interests you from a research or clinical perspective?
A: Although I treat a wide variety of conditions and injuries, my primary clinical interest is patients who have sustained patellar (kneecap) dislocations. It’s a challenging condition with a variety of causes. The majority of my research now focuses on this problem exploring why it happens and how we can best treat it in patients who are still growing.
Q: Why did you decide to specialize in orthopaedics?
A: I chose to specialize in orthopaedics after seeing how hands-on it was and the immediate impact of its treatments. Whether it’s fixing a broken bone or an unstable knee, after most of the procedures I do, I can immediately see and feel the changes and the patients can too! While it may still take weeks or months to be fully recovered, patients and families enjoy being able to see results so soon after their treatment.
Q: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
A: Super speed: there are so many people to visit and things to see and do in the world, super speed would allow me to skip over the boring parts of getting from one place to another. My sons share in my aspiration for super speed, and we have regular races at home to check who is fastest! They also like to debate who would win in a race: Daddy, Sonic or Flash? What’s your guess?
Q: If you weren’t a doctor, what do you think you’d be doing?
A: Throughout high school and most of college – after giving up on my childhood dream of playing in the NBA-- I planned on becoming a teacher. I loved tutoring and mentoring younger students, especially in math and science (my favorite topics in school) and spent nearly all my extracurricular time engaged in these sorts of activities. There was something incredibly rewarding about helping someone grasp a new concept, learn a new skill, or simply just watching them realize their potential academically. It wasn’t until college that I seriously considered becoming a doctor after taking part in a summer shadowing experience. But when I saw how it combined concepts from many of my favorite subjects in school with a career built around lifelong teaching and learning, I knew it was for me.
As a surgeon, I get to interact with learners every single day. From mentoring pre-medical students and medical students in research to giving lectures and teaching operative skills to learners at all levels of medical training, education is central to my job each and every day. And it’s not just teaching – I am a lifelong learner as well. From weekly meetings with my colleagues reviewing our surgical cases to reading new research and engaging with researchers from around the country at medical conferences, I am constantly learning new things. I can’t imagine a more enjoyable thing to do.
Q: What’s your favorite children’s book?
A: My favorite book growing up was “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” It stoked my imagination and showed me the power of creativity. My parents may not have appreciated it as much as I believe it inspired a number of wall art projects with my own crayons. Now, as an adult reading it to my own kids, I’ve rediscovered my appreciation for the book and the wonderful lessons it instills, encouraging kids to forge their own path even when things are not so clearly laid out.
Q: What do you do for fun in your free time?
A: Growing up, my favorite thing to do was play basketball. With two young children, it can be hard to carve out a lot of “free time,” but I’ve enjoyed teaching my sons how to play the sport I love. Besides sports, I also love to dance to pretty much anything. We regularly will have impromptu family dance parties at our house in the evening and my sons have made it clear they plan to take dad’s crown as the king of the dance floor.
Q: Why did you choose to work at CHOP?
A: I chose to work at CHOP for many reasons, but the most important one was the people I get to work with. Whether it’s the wonderfully kind and dedicated staff, the eager and inquisitive trainees or the amazing mentors who constantly lift me towards new and exciting opportunities, I am appreciative every day of getting to work at a place like this.
Q: What do you wish your pediatric patients knew about you?
A: I want patients and their parents to know that family is the most important thing to me; and I treat all my patients the way I would treat family. Recovering from surgery can sometimes be hard and there can be ups and downs, but I never give up on my family and I never give up on my patients. From start to finish, I will be right there with you.
… Also, behind the mask and outside of work, I’m still a kid at heart. I like to watch cartoons, eat cookies and candy, tell silly jokes, play tag and swing on the swing set with my children.