RUSHVILLE — It is said that everyone has a story to tell. Rush Memorial Hospital’s newest orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Ginther, has more stories than most. Dr. Ginther, a native Hoosier, graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1970. He later received his MD degree from the Uniformed Services University of Health Services. After completing his residency and a fellowship in Joint Replacement Surgery, Dr. Ginther served as an orthopedic surgeon in Saudi Arabia at the end of Operation Desert Storm. While there, he worked in a Combat Army Support Hospital (CASH) treating casualties.
When asked about his wartime workplace, Dr. Ginther remembers the CASH as “a protected area where you could actually do surgery without getting shot.” The surgery itself, however, could be tense. Dr. Ginther recalls “…you could be in a life and death situation at any time. So you were very interested in being prepared and being ready for any potential problem that might occur.” One of the biggest hardships for the medical staff was the heat, which would go as high as 130 degrees. The need to drink lots of water became very obvious as many soldiers began getting kidney stones from dehydration. Dr. Ginther remembers drinking up to 6 liters of water a day.
At the time of his wartime service, Dr. Ginther and his wife had three small children. While the CASH turned out to be safer than anticipated, the initial uncertainty was hard on his young family, particularly his wife. There were rumors of weapons of mass destruction and potential gas attacks. It was a scary time. Fortunately, their children were too young to understand what going to war could mean.
Communication during Desert Storm was much different than it is now. There was no email, but Dr. Ginther was able to call his wife on the phone occasionally. They also wrote many letters to one another.
As the war came to an end, Dr. Ginther went on to hold a variety of positions, including advisor to the Consultant Surgeon General for Medical Care of Southeast Asia and later, Chief of Orthopedic Surgery for Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia. He retired from the service with the rank of Army Colonel.
After leaving the military, Dr. Ginther and his family returned to Indiana, where he continued to practice orthopedic surgery, first in private practice and later at Riverview Hospital in Noblesville. While working at Riverview, Dr. Ginther was an early adopter of many advances in orthopedic surgery.
In the area of knee replacements, Dr. Ginther became an Indiana pioneer for cryroneurolysis, a pre-surgery procedure that decreases both the pain and the time of recovery from a total knee replacement. He also began using computer-assisted surgery. This procedure increases the accuracy of the alignment of the new joint, which is important to both recovery and the long-term durability of the new joint.
In the area of hip replacements, Dr. Ginther has adopted the anterior, or front-facing approach, which minimizes the need to cut into tissue and muscle. The procedure results in less pain and a quicker recovery for patients. He uses this approach whenever possible. A special surgical table is also used for hip replacements. The table allows for precise positioning of the new joint, which helps increase the number of years the new hip will last.
By the time Dr. Ginther arrived at Rush Memorial Hospital, he had already performed over 8,000 total hip or knee replacement surgeries.
Dr. Ginther’s arrival at RMH came just a few short months before the Covid-19 pandemic came to the US. As a result, his introduction to small-town medicine was more challenging than originally planned. The circumstances caused by the pandemic did, however, allow him to see how his new co-workers performed under stress. It also showed the lengths to which they would go to provide quality care for their patients.
Dr. Ginther also greatly appreciates the forethought that led the hospital to purchase a UVC disinfection device several months before the Covid-19 issue arose. This device, which destroys Covid-19 as well as other infectious particles, is used to disinfect the operating room, as well as other patient areas, at RMH. In preparation for the new hip and knee replacement service, RMH also installed a new air exchanger in the surgery suite. Together the UVC device and the air exchanger have created a very safe environment for hip and knee replacements.
When asked about his transition from a large urban facility to a smaller, more rural, hospital, Dr. Ginther said, “I think there is more a personal touch at RMH. Our team has a very consistent level of professionalism but there is also more of a family atmosphere. This creates an exceptional patient experience.”