As is true for the rest of us, the spring Dr. Haines Paik prepared for and the one he got are not even remotely the same. If all had gone according to plan, he would have been traveling the world with his girlfriend from April to June, with stops to Australia and throughout Asia. “My bucket list was to go to Australia,” says Paik. “We had a big itinerary scheduled.”
Instead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Paik is in Washington State preparing to become the newest surgeon to join Olympia Orthopaedic Associates (OOA). He specializes in revision surgery, a procedure typically performed to replace or compensate for a failed implant or to correct residual issues from previous surgeries.
The specialty is often reserved for larger hospitals, especially in the case of severe problems. “Those patients often get referred to a major academic center like the University of Washington or the University of Oregon,” Paik explains. “We’re working to build something where patients can be taken care of and have a great outcome here in Olympia as opposed to being sent somewhere else.”
Revision surgery can range from simple procedures like removing a worn plastic liner or insert that acts as cartilage to replacing entire implants. As satisfying as hip and knee replacements are to perform, Paik finds revision surgery even more rewarding. “Revision problems are just as painful if not more devastating,” he says. “The consequences are higher because the patient already has a prosthetic, so to remove it and reconstruct it is a higher risk surgery. But if you’re able to fix their problem, the satisfaction is great.”
Paik enjoys the fact that although the problems may be the same, each case is singular. “Every patient’s anatomy is different, so every revision is different,” he says. “The variety and uniqueness make it exciting and challenging.”
He was introduced to orthopedics and revision surgery during a military career that spanned over a decade and included tours in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Paik followed his army father’s example and joined up after attending college in Missouri. He did a residency at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. and was there when the facility merged with the Navy National Medical Center to become Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Following a fellowship in Boston, he journeyed to Washington State to specialize in total joint surgeries and revisions at Madigan Army Medical Center for the past eight years. Paik transitioned out of the military in April.
Although he officially joins OOA full time starting July 1, he’s been working with the team for the past two and a half years covering calls. The group is a good fit for several reasons, he says. “One of the things I learned with being deployed is that it’s about the people. As an orthopedic surgeon, you can go anywhere. This is a fantastic group of people and I realized I didn’t need to go anywhere else.” After so much time in a closed healthcare system with limited access and no referrals, he’s also looking forward to being part of a group that has considerable client volume and a referral pattern.
For now, the OOA team is helping Paik with his transition from military to civilian life. “There are so many things we take for granted as providers for the military,” he explains. “You never have to think about costs. Things like that are very stressful and I’m still learning. There is going to be continual growth and learning here.”
Another difference is in the demographics OOA serves compared to those Paik worked with at Madigan. “I had a disproportionate number of patients who were in their 30s and 40s because their active duty military career put a lot of stress on their joints,” he says. “Most studies show that the younger you are when you get a joint replacement, the higher the likelihood that it will fail in the first decade. It probably has to do with activity level.”
Paik is looking forward to getting to work and taking care of patients. He’d like to treat those from outside the area, including as far south as Oregon, as well as Thurston County residents. “I think the vision of the group is to build a comprehensive total joint center of excellence,” he says. “Hopefully, we keep adding more total joint providers and showing the community that if you have a bad total joint problem, we can take care of it all for you right here.”
He hasn’t given up on world travel, though. His girlfriend, whom he met during one of his deployments, is currently deployed herself and won’t be back in the country until October. “She’s a great traveling companion,” he says. “Most people gravitate toward her and it was always easy because she disarms people with a smile wherever we are. She’s also from the Washington area, so I’m looking forward to having her home.”
Learn more at the Olympia Orthopaedics Associates website or by calling 360-570-3460.