Alumni Reflections


Reflecting back on my residency experience I appreciate the tradition of excellence, the rewards of hard work, the camaraderie with my fellow residents and the lessons gained in becoming a leader.

Themistocles Protopsaltis, MD
Resident 2002-2007

  • Jeanne M. Franzone, MD 2015

    • Assistant Professor Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children

    I feel very fortunate to have completed residency training at NYOH/Columbia Orthopedics. The program was well organized, well balanced and I found it to be just the right size. The faculty are truly dedicated to the development of each resident as a whole and to the progression of graduated responsibility. Most importantly, the principles learned in residency, as well as the teaching and leadership skills gained, prepared me for the next steps beyond the walls of NYOH, while always having mentors at NYOH to whom I turn.

  • Themistocles S. Protopsaltis, MD 2007

    • Chief, Spine Service, Associate Professor, NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital

    Columbia Orthopedic Surgery Residency gave me all the tools I needed to succeed in my career. As we traveled through our residency journey many would say that ‘we are standing on the shoulders of giants.’ That is true from the first day to the last of the residency experience. Many of the surgical techniques we learned are variations on the trailblazing surgeries of giants like Neer, Carroll, and Stinchfield. But it was from my modern-day mentors like Levine, Rosenwasser, and Vitale that I learned how to treat every patient with the highest level of quality and compassionate care. Reflecting back on my residency experience I appreciate the tradition of excellence, the rewards of hard work, the camaraderie with my fellow residents and the lessons gained in becoming a leader.

  • Joseph L. Laratta, MD 2016

    • Assistant Professor, Norton Leatherman Spine Center, University of Louisville Medical Center

    I recently published a study exploring the reasons why over 50% of orthopedic surgeons switch jobs within the first two years of practice. As a whole, we have excelled in nearly everything we put our hands on – college, MCATs, medical school, USMLE, residency and fellowship. So, it is confusing why we often fail for the first time at meaningful employment. During my preparation of the manuscript, I had come to realize that the orthopedic residency at Columbia provided me that missing training—that ‘it’ factor. Before being a skilled surgeon, Columbia Orthopedics teaches you to become a proficient doctor. And before becoming a proficient doctor, you will become a good person. It is the most well-rounded residency program in the nation with lifelong mentorship that extends far past the operating room and long after graduation. The program can be molded specifically to your subspecialty interests and goals—rotations are flexible, cases are innumerable and opportunities are endless. When you match this program, you become part of our Columbia Orthopedic family. Fortunately, Columbia is one of the most highly recognizable and well-respected educational brands in the world. I have not been let down.

  • Jaime A. Gomez, MD 2015

    • Assistant Professor, The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

    My training at Columbia Orthopedics was slightly longer than normal since I spent two years as a postdoctoral research fellow prior to my 5 years as a resident. These 7 years completely changed my professional career and my view of medicine. My mentors at NYOH gave me the tools to be a better physician and surgeon and instilled in me the passion to become a successful academic pediatric spine surgeon. I am currently the Director of Pediatric Orthopaedic Education and the Co-Director of Research at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore as well as an Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.

  • David P. Trofa, MD 2018

    • Assistant Professor, Columbia University Department of Orthopedic Surgery

    I can say without reservation that Columbia Orthopedics provided an unprecedented training experience largely due to the mentorship of the faculty. The attendings, many of whom are national leaders in their sub-specialties, have made residency education a priority. With a near one-to-one ratio of attendings to residents, personal relationships are fostered that enhance the learning environment and encourage trainee growth, independence, and confidence in and out of the operating room. I maintain a close personal and professional relationship with multiple attendings who have provided different perspectives on the complex cases I have encountered since graduating. Research opportunities are also abundant in every subspecialty field providing interested trainees a plethora of opportunities to pursue academic interests. This experience is enhanced by a dedicated staff and infrastructure that enables residents to be productive with research while maintaining a busy clinical schedule. Moreover, the operative training delivers a unique balance of the bread and butter cases that all residents need repetitive exposure to, as well as the rare cases that only a specialized tertiary care facility with internationally renowned surgeons can facilitate. Overall, Columbia provided a truly remarkable learning experience to initiate my career in orthopedics.

  • Jonathan P. Watling, MD 2016

    • Private Practice, Maine Medical Center

    When initially applying for orthopedic residency while at Columbia College of Physicians & Surgeons, I had no intention of staying in New York City for training. However, while making my ranking list after a long and busy interview season I could not imagine completing my training anywhere besides Columbia. The Columbia residency program is not just one of the best training programs in the country, it is a profoundly supportive and caring family that stays by your side throughout your career. I frequently call on my mentors for advice about difficult cases, or to just catch up and keep up-to-date on the exciting things happening at CUIMC. I could not be more proud to have trained with the exceptional faculty at NYOH. If faced with the decision again, I would choose Columbia over and over.

  • Pamela Mehta, MD 2011

    • Private Practice, Resilience Orthopedics, San Jose, CA

    I cannot thank my mentors at Columbia enough for the comprehensive, diverse, and thoughtful approach to my orthopedic surgical residency training. When I was applying and interviewing for residency programs I did not know exactly what to look for – as most medical students do not – but I did get the sense immediately that Columbia’s approach was thorough and supportive. More than a decade later I am proud to be a graduate of such an amazing program that has significantly contributed to my success and confidence as an orthopedic surgeon in the community. After graduation I joined a large managed care organization and was more than equipped to practice amongst those that had many more years of experience than me. After several years in this large group, I took the risk to start and run my own orthopedic concierge practice and it is the fundamentals from my residency training that has allowed me to embark on this new adventure that has flourished in just two short years. I am proud to be apart of the Columbia family and continue to receive mentorship, support and connection that is an invaluable aspect of my training that will last me throughout my career.

  • Eric C. Makhni, MD, MBA 2015

    • Assistant Professor, Henry Ford Health System, Team Physician, Detroit Lions

    The foundation for my clinical and research career in orthopedics was established during residency at NYOH. Its unique emphasis on resident (as opposed to fellow) education provided one-on-one mentorship from the leading surgeons in the country. Under their guidance, I developed surgical skills, clinical acumen, and research fundamentals that have been invaluable in my early-stage career development. I also learned how to care for elite and professional athletes, which has already paid dividends in my current role as an NFL team physician. So strong was this mentorship that I still regularly interact with my attendings from NYOH, and I am all the better for it.

  • Charla R. Fischer, MD 2011

    • Associate Professor, NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital

    My time in the NYOH/Columbia Orthopedics residency was a great experience. It is definitely hard work, but good work. I learned how to operate, take care of patients and developed lifelong friendships and mentorships. I really appreciated my role models showing me how to be kind and understanding to all patients regardless of socioeconomic status and education level. I also learned how to continue to learn after my training by going to courses or meetings and spending time in the lab. One of the most important things I learned was how to treat patients like family, and I will always be grateful to my training for this very important and neglected aspect of residency education.

  • Stephanie Gancarczyk, MD 2016

    • Private Practice, Kaiser San Jose Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine

    Columbia Orthopedics is a special and unique experience that stems from the people. My attending surgeons were not simply superiors, but colleagues and mentors. They were easily accessible during training and continue to provide guidance as I tackle complex cases. My coresidents are teammates, educators and forever friends. These relationships have not only driven me to push boundaries and become the best surgeon I can be, but also enabled my attendance at a top fellowship and my success in a practice I love. Columbia Orthopedic Surgery Residency is a team that values patient care, creates independent and talented surgeons and provides continued support as you stride toward your goals as a future orthopedic surgeon.

  • Kate W. Nellans, MD, MPH 2012

    • Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Hofstra-Northwell Medical School

    I am incredibly grateful to have been a part of such a complete and rigorous orthopedic training program. To me, what sets Columbia and NYOH above others is the unparalleled mentorship from the first day of internship, to the tough cases in the early days of practice, and now with advice and support while advancing in academic rank. I am in my 7th year in practice and am the Associate Program Director for the Long Island Jewish Orthopedic Residency Program. In this position, I aim to emulate many of the Columbia/NYOH principles. For my residents, I expect the meticulous preparation for cases that was expected of me. I give honest, constructive feedback as it was given to me, and provide unwavering support long after graduation, as I still feel today from my NYOH family. The NYOH residency experience prepared me to be a competent and confident surgeon, but the ongoing relationships with the faculty keeps my practice and career fresh and rewarding.

  • Oladapo M. Babatunde, MD 2014

    • Chief, Sports Medicine BronxCare

    The Orthopedic Residency Program at Columbia University is an amazing place to train. You learn from world renowned surgeons and have the opportunity to be involved in cutting-edge care. In addition to high-quality training and didactics, the faculty has helped countless residents to publish and to win prestigious research grants. This has resulted in residents matching in their top fellowship choices around the country. Moreover, the Chair of the Department, Dr. Levine, is highly supportive and always encourages residents to explore their interests. Now, as a practicing orthopedic surgeon, I am extremely thankful for this world-class training and to be part of the Columbia University Orthopedic Surgery family.

  • Brian M. Schulz, MD 2014

    • Cedars-Sinai, Kerlan-Jobe Institute, Team Physician, Los Angeles Angles

    The invaluable experience that I obtained at Columbia thoroughly prepared me to provide excellent care for my patients and positively impact their quality of life. From day one, I was encouraged not only to learn how but why. I was able to focus on my passion of Sports Medicine while at the same time becoming a well-rounded orthopedic surgeon. More importantly, I was welcomed into what I can only describe as the Columbia Orthopedics “Family.” At Kerlan-Jobe, we train eight Sports Medicine fellows a year from the most prestigious residency programs in the country. I can confidently say that our fellows that trained at Columbia are some of the best. I am very proud and honored to be an Alumni of the Columbia Orthopedics Program.