Specialty: Hand Surgery
Hospital Affiliation: St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital
Gina C. Del Savio, MD, CPE, is an orthopedic hand surgeon and managing partner at Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in New Windsor, and associate chief medical officer at St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh. While attending the University of Vermont College of Medicine, she learned that “patients are people in a context,” paving the way for a practice that enables her patients to participate in their healthcare decision-making process.
What are the most common hand and wrist injuries, and how can they be prevented?
There are two types of injuries — overuse and traumatic. Traumatic injuries can be a result of falls, such as falls off of a bike, down stairs, or from a ladder. Overuse injuries can be from a repetitive motion, such as enjoying a hobby like weightlifting, rowing, or even crocheting. The trick is not to ignore the pain because you love the activity and don’t want to stop.
What is the ideal computer setup for avoiding wrist injuries?
Use a pad in front of the keyboard to support your wrists and keep them in a neutral rather than extended or flexed position. Take breaks. Your keyboard and chair heights should be adjusted so that your elbows are slightly more open than 90 degrees — slightly more extended than a right angle, but your wrists are neutral, not bent up or down.
You’re a proponent of the patient-physician partnership. What, exactly, does this mean, and how do you incorporate it into your practice?
Shared decision-making is vital to a healthy doctor-patient relationship. It’s about the doctor giving the patient the information they need to make decisions about their own healthcare and then making sure that the patient is cared for the way that they want. If you don’t take the time to learn about a patient as a person, you cannot be an effective caregiver. I could not imagine practicing any other way.
What are some of the latest surgical and non-surgical interventions in hand orthopedics?
You may have read about hand transplants and re-implants; there is amazing progress being made at the universities. Community hand surgeons like myself attend annual conferences to make sure that what we are doing at home for those common things like carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, tendon injuries, and others, are exactly what would be done at a university hospital.
What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your job? The most challenging?
There is nothing more rewarding than getting a big hug from someone who, after a tough journey together, is finally well and back to doing the things that they love and just came in to say thank you and goodbye. Most challenging are patients who cannot get better. As the heroin epidemic surges, I have patients who present with horrific infections from shooting up and then neglecting themselves until their hands and arms are intolerable even on heroin. It challenges my spirit when I know that whatever I do, the patient will be unable or unwilling to share in the treatment plan and I cannot make them well.