Curing the most common conditions: GW orthopedic surgeons tackle a range of medical issues

This content is provided by The George Washington University Hospital.

The big advantage we have at GW is we have this whole University behind our offices, where we have a number of PhDs and research scientists working on a gamut of [treatment] options.

A battered bone or aching muscle is inevitable at some point in life. And whether these injuries are a result of trauma or the natural aging process, the orthopedic experts at The George Washington University Hospital (GW Hospital) can help.

“We all get neck pain and back pain, shoulder pain; we all play sports so we get sports injuries,” said Dr. Raj Rao, orthopedic surgeon at GW Hospital and chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“The good news is we have good treatment options,” plus a team of providers whose specialties span the whole body — from head to toe, Rao added.

Sports medicine helps more than the pros

It’s not just professional athletes who keep Dr. Teresa Doerre busy.

The orthopedic surgeon at GW Hospital and assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences said a lot of patients who “don’t necessarily consider themselves athletes” come to her for arthroscopic surgery, which she describes as a minimally invasive surgery that looks “inside the joint and treats injuries of the shoulder, elbow, hip or knee.”

She also sees a number of patients with ligament tears. “A lot of our treatment is directed at restoring some of the stability of the knee if needed, either by repairing tissue or reconstructing it,” she said.

After a bad bike accident, one recent patient came to GW Hospital for care and Doerre reconstructed the patient’s ligaments. With some post-surgery physical therapy — part of the orthopedic continuum of care model at GW Hospital — the patient was running 5Ks and half- marathons.

“The surgery, itself, is one day, but the recovery really relies on physical therapy and good physical therapy can make or break a recovery,” Doerre said, adding that preventing future injuries and arthritis is always top of mind when treating current injuries.

“It’s not like flipping a switch and you go back to activities right away. It’s a gradual progression, and we work with [the patient] every step of the way to bring them through that recovery and get them back to things that they want to be doing as quickly as possible, but as safe as possible, and also keeping in mind preventing further injuries down the road.”

Sports Medicine itself doesn’t just deal with athletes [… ]a lot of patients who don’t necessarily consider themselves athletes sustain the kinds of injuries we treat. – Dr. Teresa Doerre

Dr. Zachary Zimmer, an orthopedic surgeon and assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences, also had a recent patient who was in a cycling accident and credits much of his recovery to GW Hospitals continuum of care. The patient feared he broke his shoulder, but Zimmer discovered the injury was a tear in the rotator cuff, “which can be incredibly painful,” Zimmer said. “And if the tear is significant enough, you can actually lose a significant amount of your motion.”

However, after surgery, six weeks in a sling and some physical therapy, the patient was able to return to playing tennis and playing with his kids.

“That’s been really amazing to see, and it’s been a great relationship with our therapists at GW Hospital as well,” Zimmer said.

We’re able to get patient back to their former selves that they were prior to their injury [… ] back to their same level of activity and pain free […] that’s the most satisfying part of being an Orthopedic surgeon. – Dr. Zachary Zimmer

Healing pain in the present, looking to the future

Rao, who specializes in injuries related to the neck and back, encounters a lot of patients who have pain from sprains or from herniated discs. He also sees patients diagnosed with infections that then put pressure on the neck and back. Treatment options for these conditions range from minimal interventions to surgery, depending on the patient and the problem.

Rao said orthopedics is also about looking to the future of care in the field. Currently, experts are studying how 3D bioprinted constructs can be used for replacing bone and cartilage that is lost in trauma.

Giving attention to what’s often overlooked

Dr. Marc Chodos, an orthopedic surgeon at GW Hospital and assistant professor of orthopedic Surgery at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, deals with two parts of the body that are often overlooked: the foot and ankle.

“You don’t realize there’s something down there until you start having problems,” Chodos said. “If you look at how far people walk and add that up over the course of a day and add that up over a lifetime, the average person is walking around the equator once, twice — it’s kind of insane. And things start to wear out over time.”

A lot of the foot and ankle issues Chodos sees are related to subtle imbalances and alignments, such as an arch that is too high or too flat. He also deals with issues related to the tendons, as well as sprains, personalizing each treatment plan for the individual patient.

Chodos says patients can rehabilitate their injuries with physical therapy or minimally invasive surgery much of the time. “There are a lot of things we can do to make people get better,” he added.

A lot of foot and ankle issues we see are related to subtle imbalances and alignment […] a lot of these things can be treated without surgery and we have minimally invasive options. – Dr. Marc Chodos


Physicians are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of the George Washington University Hospital. The hospital shall not be liable for actions or treatments provided by physicians. 

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