By: 15 September 2022
Surgeon in focus – Jimmy Chow

Dr Jimmy Chow is a surgeon-inventor, with over 15 patents worldwide in the US, Canada, EU, Australia, Japan & China.  He is an engineer and a board-certified hip and knee specialist with dual-fellowship training in Adult Reconstruction and Arthroscopic Surgery.

Dr Chow is the National Medical Director of Orthopaedics for Tenet Healthcare, the 3rd largest for-profit hospital system in the US. He is also the founder of Chow Surgical LLC in Phoenix, AZ, where he is the Fellowship Director for an ISAKOS-accredited fellowship in hip & knee surgery.

Dr Chow has been credited as a key inventor of the SuperPATH microinvasive total hip procedure and has been a lead designing surgeon for two robotics platforms.  He has extensive experience with surgical technology and has been involved with its application to surgical outcomes and efficiencies since 2008.


OPN: What drove you to choose surgery as a career – and orthopaedic surgery in particular?

JC: I worked as a design engineer for a knee brace company as my first job out of college. During my short time there, the company was taken over by another owner, and all of the design engineers were removed from the patent we were working on. Leaving that company, I figured that in order to avoid that happening to me again, I had to either start my own company, or find another career that might give me control of my innovations. At the time, medical school seemed the surer option. Orthopaedic surgery was the natural progression from my original job.


OPN: It is clear that the healthcare industry has been greatly impacted by the pandemic, what has been the greatest impact for you within the orthopaedic industry?

JC: Normalisation for patients to expect telehealth, rapid discharge from hospitals, and movement to ASCs.


OPN: What’s the best part of your job?

JC: Seeing projects that I helped develop affect patients positively.


OPN: … and the worst?

JC: The time and energy required to counteract the force of cost-containment to maintain high-quality care.


OPN: What has been the highlight of your career so far?

JC: Being invited to participate in projects with my mentors.


OPN: Are you currently involved in any research or work with emerging technologies?

JC: Yes.


OPN: Please can you tell us more about the research and what it could mean to patient experience and outcomes?

JC: There are too many avenues to type out. The rate of technology acceleration is staggering and speeding up. I talked about some of these projects in our interviews.


OPN: As a surgeon and inventor with over 15 patents worldwide, how can you encourage surgeons to think outside the box and strive for excellence in their practice?

JC: That’s another deep topic that might take an hour or more. A few highlights are what I tell our fellows. Focus on:

  1. Knowledge – The perpetual quest for lifelong learning is the basic tenet of any pursuit for excellence.
  2. Questioning – It is not enough to simply remember something, or the “how” of a concept. It is equally important to understand the “why” of that concept. Only with persistent questioning can we fully evaluate a concept, and potentially discover better answers for ourselves and our patients. Be curious and question everything.
  3. History – We must strive to answer all questions with a historical basis. By studying history, we learn not only to avoid mistakes of the past, but also discover potential solutions that have renewed relevance with modern technology and perspectives.
  4. Collaboration – We are stronger together and we enrich each other through collaboration. By building a fraternity of thought-leaders with widely varying backgrounds (different geographical locations, education, markets, and experiences), we can share those differing viewpoints and fully understand problems beyond the colloquial perspective. Additionally, we become a force against thought stagnation and political academic suppression.
  5. Innovation – With expertise comes the power to create solutions to problems that remain true to the other 4 core values. Innovation can range from implant design to new ways to run a practice, or from novel treatments to new ways to teach. Innovation has the least risk and the most impact when it leverages the other 4 core values.


OPN: Are you planning to attend any orthopaedic events this year?

JC: As many as I am invited to.


OPN: If you weren’t an orthopaedic surgeon what would you be?

JC: Engineer, designer, entrepreneur.


OPN: What would you tell your 21-year-old self?

JC: Iterate on-the-fly. There is never going to be perfect.


OPN: If you were Health Minister for the day what changes would you implement?

JC: Financial protection for high-performing providers from the economic drive to the middle.


OPN: Away from the clinic and operating theatre – what do you do to relax?

JC: Skateboard, mix cocktails, tinker, build computers, 3D printing.


OPN: How do you think the future looks in the field of orthopaedic surgery and what are your predictions for 2023 and the next decade?

JC: If you assume that eventually, technological advances from other industries will penetrate medicine, then we are looking at:

  • Big data and artificial intelligence guiding our innovations, implant designs, indications, and recovery protocols.
  • Augmented/mixed reality and robotic/computer-assisted improvements will further refine our surgical execution.
  • Advances in 3D printed collagen matrixes and biologic harvested stem cells and their derivatives might allow us to grow and implant new biologic joints.

There are so many technologies that are relevant to orthopaedic surgery. It’s really exciting.