Learning from the ‘heart’ kids bring to spina bifida treatment

Orthopedics can help spina bifida patients from both functional and pain standpoints.

Like a lot of future orthopedic surgeons, Joshua W. Meier, M.D., liked to build things growing up. What got him interested in becoming a surgeon wasn’t making model planes out of balsa wood or helping his father with home improvement projects, but a video game a friend let him borrow in high school.

Set in an emergency room, the game let players make a diagnosis on virtual patients and perform basic simulated surgery.

“The game wasn’t that good,” Dr. Meier said.

Instead, what captivated him was the five-page instruction booklet that came with it, describing the history of medicine and surgery.

“I thought this sounds pretty good because I like working with my hands and I like science,” he said.

Dr. Meier now works as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Norton Children’s Orthopedics of Louisville, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. In addition to performing surgery for fractures and other trauma; for scoliosis; and on feet, ankles, and hips; Dr. Meier works with patients at Norton Children’s Spina Bifida Clinic.

Surgery allows Dr. Meier to help spina bifida patients by untwisting a leg to point a foot straight or relieve muscle contractures. These surgeries can go a long way to help these children in their daily lives, according to Dr. Meier. He also uses bracing to coax limbs into a more functional position.

“Orthopedics is a way to do some things to help people from a functional standpoint and maybe a pain standpoint,” Dr. Meier said.

Norton Children’s Spina Bifida Clinic

A multidisciplinary team in one place so kids can bundle their appointments into one day at one place.

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Learning from the kids at the Norton Children’s Spina Bifida Clinic

The Norton Children’s Spina Bifida Clinic, a collaboration between Norton Children’s and the Kentucky Office for Children With Special Health Care Needs, brings a team of specialists to one location in St. Matthews so kids can have their care and support visits all in one day in the same place.

The clinic draws on the expertise of orthopedists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, urologists, gynecologists and more to bring a broad range of specialists’’ viewpoints to each child’s care plan.

At the Norton Children’s Spina Bifida Clinic, Dr. Meier enjoys the challenge of seeing how he can help each patient. Given how differently spina bifida affects each child, this varies significantly. According to Dr. Meier, the children at the clinic also teach him a thing or two.

“It’s neat to see what kinds of things they can all do. It’s always more than you think,” Dr. Meier said. “Those kids have a lot of heart.”

Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dr. Meier attended Medical College of Wisconsin. His residency in orthopedic surgery was at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. He completed his fellowship in pediatric orthopedic surgery and scoliosis at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas.

Dr. Meier is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon.

Dr. Meier and his wife, Kari, have a 17-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter. The family enjoys hiking, and Dr. Meier and his son are UofL football and basketball fans. Dr. Meier is also an avid golfer.