Elaine Mau, orthopedic surgeon and a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada, recently joined the Mohawk Valley Health System Orthopedic Group. Mau has privileges at Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare in Utica. Staff writer Barbara Pierce had the opportunity to interview her regarding her profession.
By Barbara Pierce
Q.: Becoming an orthopedic surgeon takes a great deal of skill and expertise. How did you gain your skills and what is your experience?
A.: I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to train in Toronto and New York under very experienced and knowledgeable mentors. These mentors had expertise in their respective subspecialties.
I trained at the University of Toronto and completed a fellowship in shoulder and elbow surgery at New York University in New York City.
Also, my patients have taught me a great deal. After my education, when it came time for me to care for my own patients in Maine, even though I was helping them through their treatments and options, these patients in turn have also taught me a lot.
I look forward to continuing my learning with each patient encounter I have here in the Mohawk Valley.
I am also a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada. To achieve this status, it is necessary to meet the highest standards for medical specialty training and complete rigorous examinations in one’s surgical specialty.
Q.: Do you have any specialty areas?
A.: I have a particular interest in shoulder replacements and shoulder arthroscopy but I also work on some fractures affecting areas outside of the shoulder, such as fractures of the wrists, elbows, leg, ankles and hips. I’d like to build my practice around the shoulder.
Q.: How did you become interested in the shoulder?
A.: It’s a new area. When I was training, focus on hips and knees was most common; focus on shoulders is new and that appealed to me. And it was interesting from a mechanical, anatomical point of view. Also, there are a number of interesting procedures that can be used, such as shoulder arthroscopy.
Q.: What is shoulder arthroscopy?
A.: Arthroscopy for the shoulder is one of my favorite procedures. It involves the use of small incisions — about one centimeter long — to introduce a small camera and other instruments to perform the procedures. We use these for procedures such as rotator cuff repairs, labral repairs or other pathologies we address around the shoulder.
Also, arthroscopy is especially nice for patients, as it is a day procedure and they can go home afterwards.
Q.: How did you decide to become a surgeon as your chosen profession?
A.: I had an interest in science and biology when I was growing up. I wanted to find a career that would allow me to help people with my work. Medicine seemed like a way to combine these goals.
I then discovered an interest in surgery, partly because I liked the concept of being able to “fix” something in a human being, but also because I liked the idea of being able to make a difference on an individual basis.
Q.: What is most challenging about being an orthopedic surgeon?
A.: I think there are many challenges. For me, I think the hardest part is when an outcome isn’t as ideal as the patient and I would like it to be. Also, it is challenging when there is a situation where I do not have any good options to offer the patient — even though I wish I could.
Q.: What is most rewarding about your profession?
A.: The most rewarding part of my work is being given an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of people in the community.
Q.: Why did you choose to relocate to the Mohawk Valley?
A.: It brings me closer to my home, which is Toronto. And there was an opportunity to develop a shoulder program, which is the practice I’d like to build.
Education: Doctor of Medicine, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington, Conn.; Master of Science degree at the Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto; residency in orthopedic surgery, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Toronto; fellowship in shoulder and elbow surgery, New York University, New York City; fellow, Royal College of Surgeons of Canada
Work highlights: Prior to joining the Mohawk Valley Health System Medical Group, Mau was affiliated with Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in Ellsworth, Maine, specializing in shoulder and elbow reconstruction and arthroscopy. She also practiced at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center/Franklin Memorial Hospital in Lewiston, Maine, and Auburn, Maine.