Patient grows up to work beside his childhood doctor

A Michigan orthopedic oncologist now helps train one of his former patients, 15 years after lifesaving surgery.

By — Posted Jan. 26, 2009

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An orthopedic specialist in Port Huron, Mich., entered a room solemnly 15 years ago and delivered news that would alter his patient's life.

"I remember [the doctor] said, 'We found a shadow on the bone. It could be a bone infection or it could be cancer ... but we think it's cancer,' " said Trevor Banka, MD, who was 12 at the time. "My grandmother was losing her battle with ovarian cancer, and my first question was, 'Am I going to die?' He said, 'You could, but I don't think you will.' "

Dr. Banka had a distal femoral osteosarcoma in his right knee. It required surgery, intense chemotherapy and a musculoskeletal oncology specialist.

That's how he first met Michael Mott, MD, an orthopedic oncologist.

Dr. Mott and another surgeon performed Dr. Banka's original surgical procedure -- a modular oncologic knee replacement. It left Dr. Banka with a prosthetic knee joint. It also left him with a new outlook for what he wanted to do in life.

"Both of my parents are in the medical field, and I always liked the sciences, but I never thought about becoming a physician until after I was diagnosed," Dr. Banka said. "After my diagnosis, I saw the ability that Dr. Mott and the other physicians had to not only save my life, but allow me to do the things that I loved to do again. That's when I made my decision. I wanted to help others out."

Dr. Banka is now a second-year orthopedic resident at Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital -- the same workplace as the man who helped save his life. In fact, Dr. Banka and Dr. Mott work together on cases when rotations call for it, and they have teamed up on several research projects.

From patient to coworker

In his journey to become a physician, Dr. Banka kept in touch with Dr. Mott through follow-up visits and additional leg surgeries.

"He'd say things like, 'Hey, I'm in college now and I'm thinking of going to medical school,' " Dr. Mott recalled. "I said, 'Hey, that sounds like a good plan. Good luck to you.' "

It wasn't the end of their discussions about the medical profession. After Dr. Banka entered medical school and it became clearer that orthopedic surgery was what he wanted to do, they talked about where he should seek residencies.

He landed at Henry Ford Hospital in July 2007. Then Dr. Mott accepted a job offer at Henry Ford about a month after Dr. Banka arrived -- setting up their current working relationship.

Ever since, it's been rewarding for both in different ways.

Dr. Banka said he often draws from his own experience as a patient to help him treat patients now. He credits much of his attitude to watching Dr. Mott.

One of his favorite memories of working with Dr. Mott was one of the first cases they did together.

"It was not a complex case, but it was a neat feeling being in the operating room," Dr. Banka said. "I was standing next to him, with him teaching me as a young surgeon rather than talking to me as a patient. It was a very gratifying feeling."

Their doctor-patient relationship hasn't ended. Dr. Mott still checks up on Dr. Banka -- though the discussions about Dr. Banka's activities are not as intense as they used to be.

" 'You have to treat this knee like you're a 60-year-old man,' " Dr. Banka remembers Dr. Mott telling him. "I don't know how many times he said that to me. So, it was a fine balance between living my life and doing what was best for my knee."

For Dr. Mott, the gratification is twofold. "It's very rewarding to see him not only succeed in a clinical aspect, but also from the emotional and living perspectives, as well," he said. "Trevor is an incredibly bright individual. This is not a pity party that got him to where he is today. It was his own hard work and gifts that he's been given intellectually."

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