NYU Langone’s Kirk A. Campbell, MD, knew from the time he was a 7-year-old in his native Jamaica that he wanted to be a doctor. Even then, he says in this episode of Vital Signs, “I really enjoyed helping people.”
A few years later he moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, to live with his father and take advantage of educational opportunities. There, young Dr. Campbell discovered a second passion—sports, specifically basketball. The game also became a great motivator: “My mother instilled in me the importance of education. If my homework was not completed, if my grades were not maintained, then there was no basketball. That really drove me to excel in school.”
Dr. Campbell never wavered from his goal to become a doctor. But it was a minor injury he experienced as a member of the high school varsity basketball team that cemented his future specialty. “I saw a sports medicine physician, and our interaction was phenomenal. I could not believe that people actually got paid to do sports medicine,” he says.
Today, as a sports orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone, Dr. Campbell remains passionate about helping people, both through advocating for diversity in medicine and working to limit the use of narcotic medications in orthopedic surgery whenever possible. A critical element of that is explaining clearly to patients what to expect after surgery.
Says Dr. Campbell, “Orthopedic injuries hurt. Surgery unfortunately also hurts. I tell my patients, ‘We will do an outstanding job of managing your pain, but you’re not going to have zero pain. You are going to be uncomfortable, and it’s OK to be uncomfortable.’”
Dr. Campbell and his team work to limit the amount of pain patients experience. “We’ve adopted a multimodal pain management strategy for postsurgical pain,” says Dr. Campbell. “That may involve anti-inflammatory medicines, as well as cold therapy. And we’re able to definitively show that patients do not require a significant amount of narcotic medications with a lot of the procedures that we perform.”