Five Questions With: Dr. Julia Katarincic

Dr. Julia Katarincic, a University Orthopedics surgeon, specializes in the care of the hands and microvascular surgery for children and adults, with particular expertise in pediatric upper extremity problems. 

Katarincic regularly treats arthritis of the hand, congenital hand anomalies, brachial plexus injuries and peripheral nerve injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome and fractures.

She also volunteers her time and expertise with the Touching Hands Project, traveling to Honduras to see and perform free hand surgery for patients as part of the nonprofit’s mission to heal children with deformities, adults with chronic pain and victims of violence.

Katarincic returned to Providence, where she did her residency, to join University Orthopedics in 2002. Previously she practiced at the Mayo Clinic and Massachusetts General Hospital. She recently served as a member of the Department of Orthopaedics at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

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PBN: What interested you in the field of orthopedics and specifically in hand surgery?

KATARINCIC: There are many reasons why orthopedics was very attractive to me. It is a very hands-on field. I can literally fix things either in the operating room [or] emergency room. Being able to do this can really improve your patients’ quality of life.

PBN: Orthopedic surgery is a male-dominated field. Why do think that is and did that ever present challenges for you as you established your practice?

KATARINCIC: No. I always wanted to be an orthopedist and didn’t really consider the lack of women in the field. I hope my patients consider me a good orthopedic surgeon who happens to be female.

You have been very involved in the Touching Hands Project, which provides free hand surgery and hand therapy to adults and children in underserved communities around the world. How did you get involved in this charity?

KATARINCIC: The real answer is availability. I am very involved in the society and many of my colleagues know of my interest in congenital hand surgery and my previous involvement with the Shriners Hospital for Children. A Touching Hands Project trip to San Pedro Sula and a health volunteer overseas trip to Tegucigalpa needed someone to help operating on the children. Fortunately I was available, so that started my twice yearly trips to Honduras for the past four years. Also, it is great to see the residents and fellows be involved – they can see things they may not see in the U.S. and learn how to do more with less.

PBN: What are you most passionate about teaching students in your faculty capacity at the Warren Alpert Medical School?

KATARINCIC: Being involved with teaching medical students, residents and fellows provides my partners and I the ability to mentor the next generation of physicians, which is incredibly important. It also forces me to stay up to date on the latest literature – I need to know more than my trainees.

PBN: What are some of the latest advances in hand surgery that you are excited about?

KATARINCIC: One new advance is in nerve surgery. There are some new types of synthetic and cadaver nerves. In certain situations, results with these products have been promising. This has allowed us to limit the need to harvest nerves from a patient, thus decreasing risks of postoperative complications.

Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Borkowski@PBN.com.

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