Meet Dr. Fermin J. Santos, Physical Medicine & Rehab/Interventional Spine
My name is Fermin J. Santos, I’ve been at Dickson-Diveley Orthopaedics for four years now. My training consisted of three years of residency at the University of Kansas for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR), and a one-year spine fellowship in Arizona, where we were the team physicians for Arizona State University and for the Phoenix Suns.
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, or PMR, is a very unique field. It really entails a little bit of orthopedics, radiology and neurology. Really, we are the specialists who restore function. So anytime someone has had any acute injury or chronic debilitating injury or condition, like lower back pain, tennis elbow or cubital tunnel syndrome, that has decreased function, our goal is really restoration of function. In PMR, we really are the team lead, I guess you could say, for a multidisciplinary approach to improvement of function, meaning we work closely with physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech/language and pathology, orthopedics, and neurology, with the overall goal of restoring function and getting people back to where they were beforehand.
Monitoring people from time of injury to full recovery is something that really fascinated me. You don’t get that in very many fields…where, when someone’s actually injured, you get to see the progress they make throughout the recovery time. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation gives me an opportunity to see that, not only with spinal cord injury, but also with traumatic brain injury and sports medicine.
In my residency training, we did see a lot of back pain – a lot of radiculopathies, or nerve injuries, that cause pain in the upper or lower extremities. I was exposed to back pain treatment options. For one year I really just did spinal procedures for treatment of painful spinal disorders like spinal stenosis, and that’s how I got interested in the field.
In my clinic, the most common conditions we treat are radiculopathies, or pinched nerves. We also do a lot of sports medicine injuries, neck pain, back pain. We really are the gatekeepers for our orthopedic clinic, meaning anytime someone has an acute injury, we try to provide conservative management – whether it’s for acute knee pain, shoulder pain or back pain – before they ever see the orthopedist.
My philosophy when it comes to managing my patients is to do no harm, and do what’s best for the patient. My overall goal is to look at the big picture, see what kind of treatments they’ve had beforehand, and try not to repeat anything that’s already been done. My goal is also to educate the patient to let them know what the condition is and what prognosis they may have, and also to approach it from a team aspect. Meaning, if there’s a condition we’re not making progress with, to consult the appropriate individual in our group or beyond, with the overall goal to get the patient better.