It’s a good feeling telling kids that they can go back to playing sports.William J. McKinnon, Jr., MD
In our ongoing series on Dartmouth-Hitchcock staff, we interview William (Bill) J. McKinnon, Jr., MD, who joined the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Department of Orthopaedics in September 2018. He graduated summa cum laude from Assumption College before attending the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. He performed his orthopaedic residency at Seton Hall University/St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in New Jersey. McKinnon then completed a Pediatric Orthopaedic Fellowship at the prestigious Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center.
Why did you choose to come to DHMC?
There was a need for a Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and I was looking for a role in an academic medical center where I would have access to good attendings, research and residents. While I was doing my fellowship in Cincinnati, Dartmouth-Hitchcock popped up on my radar, and since my wife and I are originally from Connecticut, I came to check it out. There was a large need for an Orthopaedic surgeon here, and everyone was so helpful when I came to visit.
How would you describe your role?
I specialize in seeing children with musculoskeletal, sports injuries and neuromuscular conditions, essentially up until they reach adulthood. That care includes operative and non-operative management.
What made you want to specialize in this area of medicine?
I wanted to go into orthopedics since I was in second grade. My dad was a welder, and he got injured on the job. My parents couldn't always find a babysitter for my sisters and me, so we used to go to the appointments with them. That’s when I fell in love with the field.
When I was a first-year medical student, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon presented at an orthopaedic scholars meeting, she was very engaging and had a passion for her work. That experience, combined with working in a pediatrician's office as part of a continuity clinic for three years during medical school, solidified my desire to work with children.
What work have you done that you are most proud of?
I am one of only two pediatric orthopedic surgeons in New Hampshire. I’m excited about the prospect of expanding the pediatric orthopedic program at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Part of that involves working with Boston Children's Hospital and the physicians there to provide the best continuity of care for our patients when necessary.
What's the greatest joy of the work that you do?
Seeing a child make progress. Treating neuromuscular conditions in children can greatly improve their function, and it benefits the functional lives of the parents who take care of them, which is another highlight.
When a child has a less serious injury–which is an unfortunate thing, of course— it’s interesting listening to their stories about what they were doing, or rather—what they weren’t supposed to be doing when it happened.
It’s a good feeling telling kids that they can go back to playing sports.
What's the biggest misconception people have about the work you do?
Orthopaedics involves more than just fixing bones. Kids with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or spina bifida can have orthopedic concerns and issues. Not every child will need surgery, but we might work with them if they need braces or castings. We might help a child who uses a wheelchair get to a position where they can transfer themselves to a bed or a table.
It also varies from adult orthopaedics. An adult might get a much different treatment than a child. Children have growth plates, areas of growing tissue near the end of their developing bones, which can limit what you can do around certain aspects of the bones. Kids tend to heal faster, and they are highly motivated because all they want to do is go back to the gym, sports and recess.