Dr. Laura Lemke, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Fox Valley Orthopedics, works with a young patient.

Success Story: Fox Valley Orthopedics

Meet a dedicated group of physicians who are dedicated to offering specialized orthopedic care to patients in Elgin, St. Charles, Geneva and Naperville, and discover why they’ve experienced tremendous growth over 40 years.

Dr. Laura Lemke, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Fox Valley Orthopedics, works with a young patient.

The late Dr. Eugene Wittenstrom was clearly ahead of his time. In 1973, he saw an opportunity to bring specialized orthopedic care to the Fox Valley, and founded Fox Valley Orthopedic Associates.

“He had a vision to create orthopedic care centered around his patients’ needs first,” says Mary O’Brien, CEO. “There was maybe one other orthopedic doctor in the area at the time.”

Wittenstrom passed away in 2008, but his dream to provide high-quality orthopedic care remains alive today. Fox Valley Orthopedics, headquartered at 2525 Kaneville Road, Geneva, and with offices in St. Charles, Elgin and Naperville, provides expert care with a personalized approach, when it comes to treating bones, joints and muscles.

The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States is a joint project of nine organizations, including the Arthritis Foundation and the American Society of Orthopedic Surgeons. According to its statistics, more than one in four Americans has a musculoskeletal condition requiring medical attention. Musculoskeletal disorders and diseases are the leading cause of disability in the country and account for more than one-half of all chronic conditions in people over 50.

Fox Valley offers, in a single facility, accredited ambulatory surgery, orthopedic imaging, forward-thinking orthopedic research, and physical therapy and rehabilitation. It’s the first such group in the region to offer fellowship-trained physicians and surgeons experienced in joint replacement, sports medicine, arthroscopic surgery, shoulder surgery, hand and arm surgery, foot and ankle surgery, spine surgery and pediatric orthopedic care. All physicians are graduates of accredited medical schools, have completed five years of graduate orthopedic residency and an additional year of fellowship training in their particular sub-specialties.

In addition, Fox Valley offers outpatient surgery, physical therapy in three locations, sophisticated high field MRI, and additional specialties of rheumatology, arthritis and pain management.

“If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, you’re going to be treated by a board certified hand surgeon,” says Dr. Vishal Mehta, an orthopedic surgeon. “Patients get assigned the person best suited to take care of them. We’re a center of excellence, with experts all housed in one location. The emphasis for us is always patient care. Patients are not a cog in the wheel here, where they get 30 seconds with their doctor. We value interaction and spend as much time as we need to with our patients.”

The biggest advantage of having multiple services under one roof is improved patient care, says O’Brien, who joined the practice in 1985. “The communication is much better when the care team is in the same location,” she explains. “When patients come to us, they’re in pain and not too happy. The better we can make them feel, the better their experience will be.”

To help provide a positive experience, the staff spends an inordinate amount of time on patient education. “Our doctors will explain what to expect in surgery, giving seminars to explain surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for arthritis,” O’Brien says. “Our goal is to make the patients more comfortable.”

Over the years, Fox Valley has experienced tremendous growth. In 1994, it built its current Geneva location. It wasn’t long before it outgrew the space, so a second building located directly across from its parking lot was purchased. The south building holds outpatient services, the surgery department, sports medicine, and foot and ankle services. The north building contains total joint, spine and pediatric services. Physical therapy is located in both buildings. Fox Valley also maintains regular hours in Naperville and Elgin.

The center has grown from four therapists to 32 physical and occupational therapists. The practice has 230 employees, including 14 physicians (12 surgeons, one rheumatologist and one pain management physiatrist), six sports medicine trainers, 30 surgery staff members and nine physician assistants. O’Brien hopes to add two or three more surgeons.

The Geneva heaquarters of Fox Valley Orthopedics.

Last year, Fox Valley cared for about 43,000 patients, a slight decrease from four years ago. O’Brien points to the economy.

“Some people have lost their jobs and don’t have insurance any longer. If they sprain their ankles, they won’t seek treatment,” she says. “Also, insurance companies have increased deductibles regularly. It’s not uncommon to have a $1,000 deductible which, three years ago, was unheard of. Insurance companies are limiting the number of visits they will pay for, or are making the co-pay so high that the patient who came to therapy three or four times a week just can’t afford it.”

Most of the center’s patients come from Huntley; Elgin; the Fox Valley area, including Tri-cities and Aurora; DeKalb and West Chicago. Many are primary care referrals, but according to O’Brien, a majority of patients arrive as a result of word-of-mouth from family, friends and other patients.

About 12 percent are Medicare age, which includes total joint, spine, hip, ankle and wrist fractures. Another 15 percent are worker compensation cases, and a large portion (35 percent) are sports medicine patients, school-aged athletes and weekend warriors. Fox Valley treats a variety of injuries, from ankle sprains and broken bones to tendonitis or torn ACLs. The center also has physicians trained to treat pediatric issues like elbow fractures, spine conditions, hip dysplasia and Osgood-Schlatter disease.

Mehta attributes the increase in sports injuries to overuse. “Twenty years ago, we didn’t have athletes playing soccer or basketball three nights a week,” he says. “The body needs time to rest. Athletes need a balance. When you’re young, you feel invincible, but there’s a limit to what your body can do. Athletes need to allow time for rest, to give tissues and muscles time to heal.”

According to O’Brien, Fox Valley was the first area practice to do arthroscopy at local hospitals and offer bone density testing, and has been in the forefront of total joint replacements. Its ambulatory surgery center is accredited by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care.

The staff is equally recognized. Drs. Kevan Ketterling and Craig Torosian recently received recognition as U.S. News & World Report Top Doctors. Mehta, active in the community, is a past recipient of Delnor Hospital’s Humanitarian Award for outstanding service to the community and has been nominated for the Hometown Hero award by the Fox River Chapter of the American Red Cross. Dr. Eric Bartel has also received the Delnor Humanitarian Award for his volunteer work in Haiti, and Dr. David Morawski has been recognized for his outstanding service to Delnor Hospital.

Fox Valley Orthopedic staff serves as athletic trainers for area high school athletic teams and as team physicians for the Kane County Cougars. Ketterling has been the primary team physician for 20 years. “It speaks to the quality of the staff we have here,” O’Brien says.
In addition to their work in the clinic, physicians spend ample time educating the public. The physicians speak to community and school groups on a variety of topics, such as sports injuries prevention and distracted driving. “Going to high schools and health fairs to talk with teachers, coaches and kids is great,” says Mehta. “It’s nice to have the opportunity to talk to healthy people about staying well. Outreach programs allow us to do that.”

They also find time to give back. For the past 12 years, the Fox Valley staff has purchased Christmas presents for people in need, most recently through the Gifts of Hope program. “Fox Valley Orthopedics is honored to be involved in such a worthy cause,” says O’Brien. “The community has given us so much that we feel privileged to be able to give back to families in this way.”

Fox Valley Orthopedics services will continue to serve a need for local residents. “Orthopedics will always be in demand,” O’Brien says. “People in athletics will always experience injuries. And as people get older, the demand for joint replacement will continue to grow.” ❚