HCA-HealthONE Limb Expert Credits Success to Military Career and Mentors
Nashville-based HCA Healthcare provides healthcare services through its 171 locally-managed hospitals and 118 freestanding surgery centers in 20 states and the United Kingdom. With its founding in 1968, HCA created a new model for hospital care in the United States, using combined resources to strengthen hospitals, deliver patient-focused care, and improve the practice of medicine. HCA is a learning healthcare system that uses its more than 27 million annual patient encounters to advance science, improve patient care, and save lives.
For more than 135 years, Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center, a HCA-HealthONE facility in Denver, has been meeting the healthcare needs of patients and their families from across the Rocky Mountain and Great Plains regions and from around the world. With more than 80 specialties, 1,000 specialists and primary care physicians, and 1,600 employees, Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center is the only tertiary/quaternary care hospital in a seven-state region that offers one campus with leading comprehensive care, featuring featuring the center for robotic surgery, complex orthopedics & spine care, cardiovascular & stroke care, cancer/bone marrow transplant, high-risk OB/maternal-fetal care, kidney & liver transplant, head & neck, hyperbaric medicine center, wound healing, infectious disease, and pediatrics.
A Care Philosophy Shaped by the Military
Dr. David Hahn of the Institute for Limb Preservation at HCA-HealthONE’s Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center views his career both in the military and as an orthopedic surgeon as an opportunity to save limbs and improve lives.
“Even if we cannot save the limb, most often we can still make a patient’s life better. Quality of life is the most important goal,” says Dr. Hahn.
Dr. Hahn served in the U.S. Army from 1971 to 1991, progressing from second lieutenant to retire as assistant chairman of the orthopedic department at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado, as a lieutenant colonel.
In 1987, Dr. Hahn met Dr. Ross Wilkins, who, one year prior, had founded the Institute for Limb Preservation with the late Dr. Tom Arganese at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center. When asked about this initial encounter, Dr. Hahn recalls Dr. Wilkins saying, “Would you like to learn how to do external fixations and the Ilizarov Technique?” Hahn accepted without a second thought.
The procedure involves the use of an external fixation ring and wires to help complex fractures heal. For a time, Dr. Hahn and Dr. Wilkins were the only physicians doing this procedure in Colorado.
Dr. Hahn performed the procedure during the remaining four years of his military career. He credits his relationship with Dr. Wilkins for his civilian opportunity with the HCA-HealthONE healthcare system.
“I had a wonderful and gratifying career in the military,” Dr. Hahn said. “I learned orthopedic surgery and worked with incredible people and patients.”
Dr. Hahn attributes his success to the leadership skills acquired in the military and “learning to do more with less.” This important lesson carries over to his current care philosophy today.
Now celebrating 30 years with the Institute for Limb Preservation at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center, Dr. Hahn still finds his work to be both challenging and rewarding.
Thanks to the team approach employed by leaders in multiple specialties at the Institute, the group can handle the most complex orthopedic cases and treat limbs in jeopardy through reconstruction, salvage, and, if necessary, amputation and rehab. “Being the experts that other experts turn to makes it imperative to stay on top of your game. It’s important to stay current, do research, consult with others, provide education to others, and think outside the box,” states Dr. Hahn.
While Dr. Hahn embraces the challenge of the very complex cases, he most enjoys the rewards associated with making a difficult situation better for the patient.
Supporting Veteran Colleagues and Patients
Military veteran recruitment is important to Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center and its parent company HCA, which employs 37,000 veterans across the enterprise. Dr. Hahn believes that “working with military professionals, both active and retired, is a blessing. Military people are taught compassion, hard work, and to take care of each other.”
In addition, because the Institute for Limb Preservation is a top program to treat amputees, many veterans seek treatment there. When Dr. Hahn has the privilege of treating a military veteran as a patient, he admits, “There is an immediate connection and comfort knowing we served our country together.”
While Dr. Hahn’s career shows no signs of slowing down, he wants to help pave the way for fellow veterans. He advises veterans, “Be confident, persistent, and always work hard. Don’t be afraid to be challenged; you are the top of the line and will certainly rise to the occasion.” He also quipped, “Be honest and eager, but perhaps most importantly, just be sure to be on time.”
Born with psoriatic arthritis, Kevin Wager lost all cartilage in his knees, hips, and feet. Nine years ago, he received the devastating news that he would never walk again. Kevin was referred to Dr. David Hahn at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center. When he told Dr. Hahn, “I want to walk again,” they openly discussed all options, including a double foot amputation.
Kevin chose that route and never looked back. Three and a half years ago, he could barely sit without intense pain and he could not stand or walk at all. Thanks to this surgery, state-of-the art prosthetics, Dr. Hahn and the orthopedic team at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s, Kevin is defying all odds- standing, walking, and even running. More of Kevin’s story can be found online.
By Christy Maraone