The MPPA was established in 1988 by the late Jerome Gilden, an orthopedic specialist in the School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He retired in 1998, but, in 2004, the program was revived by Hunt, Khoo-Summers and Heidi Prather, DO, orthopedic surgery professor and chief of the section of physical medicine and rehabilitation. Prather and Hunt are physiatrists — specialists in physical medicine and rehabilitation who focus on non-surgical musculoskeletal care. They excel at linking symptoms to root causes and, unlike orthopedic surgeons, are not body-part specific.
Two years ago, Aaron Chamberlain, MD, a shoulder and elbow surgeon and assistant professor of orthopedic surgery, joined the group.
Because of their experience as performing artists, they bring zeal and understanding to their clinical work: Hunt and Khoo-Summers as dancers, Prather on trumpet and Chamberlain on violin.
“We understand that need to perform, to make your body do things it is not built for.”
LYNNETTE KHOO-SUMMERS, PT, DPT
“We understand where they (the artists) are coming from,” said Khoo-Summers, who danced professionally in Chicago before injuring her knees. Now an assistant professor in the Program in Physical Therapy and the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, she found her niche in rehabilitating performing artists. “We understand that need to perform, to make your body do things it is not built for. Most often, if you go to clinicians who don’t understand that need to perform, they’ll say, ‘If it hurts to dance, don’t dance.’”
Together, Hunt and Khoo-Summers diagnose problems by observing patients in motion. In addition to traditional exercise equipment, such as treadmills, an elliptical, bikes and a universal gym, the physical therapy clinic boasts a ballet barre and special flooring for dancers.
“If you test performing artists in the office in standard fashion to see if they have good muscle strength, their strength will be fine,” she said. “But if they can’t maintain the posture they need because of fatigue, then you have to develop a training program to work more toward endurance and posture retraining.”
While the MPPA physicians’ efforts help decrease symptoms, Khoo-Summers corrects the movement impairments that are causing the symptoms. This is done by attaining better alignment, correcting muscle imbalances, building stamina and developing adaptive strategies.
“The MPPA is cutting edge — designed to maintain high levels of performance in those who push the limit of what is physically possible on a sustained basis,” said Richard Gelberman, MD, the Fred C. Reynolds Professor and chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. “The clinicians are to be congratulated for bringing exceptional care for this ultra-committed population to St. Louis and to our region.”