How a 30-minute doctor’s visit inspired this surgeon’s career

Making the RoundsWe caught up with Dr. Chaitu Malempati, an orthopaedic surgeon with UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine who works at The Medical Center at Bowling Green, for our latest Making the Rounds interview.

Dr. Malempati is also the medical director and team physician for Western Kentucky University Athletics, a role that allows him to treat athletes from a variety of different sports.

What types of injuries do you treat?

In my clinic, I see most frequently shoulder and knee injuries. These can be acute injuries that are sports-related or work-related or they can be general chronic injuries caused by arthritis.

At Western Kentucky, I take care of all the sports teams and I travel with the football and men’s basketball teams. I do training room a couple times a week, seeing various athletes in all kinds of sports.

When is surgery recommended for an injury?

Although I’m a surgeon and I love surgery – that’s why I went into the field – I want people to have surgery only when the benefits outweigh the risks. I will do everything in my power to treat people non-surgically first. I really only like to do surgery when I know I can help someone with minimal risks.

What inspires you to go to work each day?

Helping people. Getting people back to the lifestyle or the function they were at before pain or decreased function took over. Getting people back to where they can do the things that make them happy and live the lifestyle that they want to live. That’s really what drives me and encourages me to come to work every day. Whether it be surgical or non-surgical treatment, just helping them get back to where they want to be.

There’s really nothing better than hearing a patient say that they’re doing better or that I helped them get back to playing sports or doing what they love. That’s what inspires me.

When did you decide to pursue medicine as a career?

To be honest, I didn’t know I wanted to do medicine at all when I was an undergrad at the University of Iowa. I played tennis there on scholarship and I hurt my shoulder between my junior and senior years. I went to see an orthopaedic surgeon at the University of Iowa, who I thought was great. He explained to me what the shoulder was, what the labrum was and why my injury was causing pain. And after that 30-minute visit, I realized that’s what I wanted to do.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I recently traveled to Italy, which was on my bucket list and was great. But if I could travel anywhere else, it would probably be Australia because there’s a lot of interesting stuff there – there’s the Outback, there’s the Great Barrier Reef and the people there seem very happy.

What’s your favorite food?

Pizza and pasta. Anything Italian.

How would your friends and family describe you?

Energetic, goofy. Someone who likes to enjoy life, who likes to have fun with anything I’m doing, whether it be related to work or not. I try to enjoy everything I do.


Watch our video interview with Dr. Malempati below, where he talks more about the integrative approach his practice offers patients to help treat a variety of orthopaedic injuries.


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