7 Quick Questions: Dr. Mark Abel

Ever wonder what your doctor or health provider does outside the exam room? Our 7 Quick Questions series gives you a personal glimpse into the people of UVA.

Mark Abel, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in pediatric care. Dr. Abel is nationally recognized for his care in pediatric orthopedics and scoliosis.

1. Why did you become a doctor?

Throughout my life I was captivated by the study of biological sciences, and I also derived gratification from taking care of people. I also loved teaching, so academic medicine was always my goal. I am very fortunate to be in this profession.

Meet UVA pediatric orthopedist Mark Abel, MD
Meet UVA pediatric orthopedist Mark Abel, MD.

2. Why did you choose your specialty?

Choosing a specialty was not easy; I liked them all! However, I had an obligation to the US Navy for financing my medical education and orthopedic surgeons were needed. I later moved to pediatric orthopedics because of the broad diversity of cases.

3. What’s your favorite thing about Charlottesville?

In 1993, when I arrived in Charlottesville, I knew this was a special place; a university community full of arts and music, an internationally recognized medical center, all within an outdoor paradise. This is a combination which is hard to beat, and the work commute is gorgeous.

4. Where did you grow up?

I moved 6 times during elementary school and high school to accommodate my parent’s jobs. Of the places I have lived, I have the fondest for Connecticut (high school and University) and Louisiana (elementary school).

5. What’s the most exciting thing/research happening in your field right now?

Compared to when I started practicing 27 years ago, innovations in orthopedic surgery have been numerous including: the ability to safely put screws in the spine to correct spinal deformity, the ability to lengthen limbs with a elongating rod that is actuated with an external controller and arthroscopic management of pathology in the hip, wrist and other joints. I see this trend of technical innovation continuing, necessitating on-going education and training for even senior surgeons like myself.

6. Who is your inspiration/hero?

I am inspired by many people. The list would include the woman who cleans the operating area, Lily, who shows up with a smile every day and when asked “how are you?” she responds, “I am blessed”.

The list also includes Dr. Abraham Verghese who has written several beautiful books about the practice of medicine, always emphasizing the human interaction and communication which are essential to the healing process.

Recently I was inspired by the late Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, a new medical officer for the FDA in 1960, who withstood the barrage of Big Pharma to keep thalidomide away from American women because she felt the testing was not rigorous enough. Despite much criticism for her stance, she was later proven correct when the tragedy of babies born without limbs to European women surfaced. These women had used the “wonderful drug” thalidomide for morning sickness. The rigorous testing and authorities of the FDA in large part grew from this tragedy.

All my heroes demonstrate tenacity, dedication and morality in the face of adversity.

7. What’s your favorite thing about working at UVA?

I feel my work at UVA is appreciated by my care partners, by the residents and the patients. I also believe I have an extremely gifted group of care partners to help in the management of my patients.

Learn more about Dr. Abel.

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