A Mission To Care For Our Keiki

Interviewed by Melissa Moniz
Wednesday - September 10, 2008
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Dr. Ellen M. Raney

Orthopaedic Surgeon, Chief of Staff at Shriners Hospitals for Children - Honolulu

Interviewed by Melissa Moniz

What are your responsibilities at Shriners?

I am the chief of staff at Shriners Hospital for Children in Honolulu (the first female chief of staff of the 22 Shriners Hospitals in the country), but I’m a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon first. I take care of children with orthopaedic problems, which include bones, joints, extremities and spine. As chief of staff, I supervise all the care that is given here at the hospital, including the supervision of our physicians and nurse practitioners.

How long have you been with Shriners?

I’ve been with the Honolulu Shriners for 10 years. Prior to that, I was with the Tampa Shriners in Florida for seven years.

Based on your experience at both, how would you compare the two hospitals?

The mission for both hospitals is absolutely the same and the caring for children is the same, but the physical environment is very different. The Tampa hospital is larger, has more employees and the culture is different. I love it at the Honolulu hospital, and enjoy working with the multiple cultures here in Hawaii.

What was it like being the only woman during your orthopaedic training?

It was actually very difficult. When I was in training, it was challenging because there were still a lot of men who felt that women didn’t have a place in orthopaedics. I believe things are much better now for women in training. I have worked extensively with a national group called the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society, which is named for the first woman in the United States to become board certified in orthopaedics. The organization is helping women in the field of orthopaedics nationally. We have worked very hard to support women in training. The organization now also focuses on women’s musculoskeletal health issues. Currently, there are only 10 percent of women in orthopaedic training. In contrast, 98 percent of the practicing orthopaedic surgeons are men.

Dr. Ellen Raney with Shriners patients Makalei Arthur, Neha Kajol Prasad and Raynard Spencer
Dr. Ellen Raney with Shriners patients Makalei Arthur, Neha Kajol Prasad and Raynard Spencer

Can you talk about the rebuild of the hospital and what the status is?

It’s actually going really well and moving along very rapidly. It’s very exciting. Every day we can look out and see it changing. We’re currently ahead of schedule. It looks like we might start moving into the new hospital by April 2009 instead of May, which was our original plan, so we’re very excited. The financial contributions from the community have been overwhelmingly positive, and this represents a great vote of confidence in the work that we’re doing here at the hospital.

How will the dynamics of the hospital change once the rebuilding is complete?

The hospital is 40 years old and its age is showing. Much of the current hospital was built before the current American Disability Act standards, so we needed to rebuild the hospital. Our new hospital will be more patient/family centered, and provide more privacy and comfort for a parent or guardian to stay with their child. The operating rooms and radiology department will be state-ofthe art to provide the best care for the children. In addition, we’re going to add a small housing complex for families who are from outside Oahu. The new hospital also will have a small therapeutic/exercise pool that will help strengthen the children’s bones and joints.

Do you have numbers on how many children are from Hawaii and how many are from elsewhere?

Approximately 97 percent of the children we care for are U.S. citizens. Eighty percent are from the state of Hawaii, 3 percent are foreign, and the rest of the children come from the U.S. territories, such as Guam and American Samoa, in addition to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas and the Compact of Free Association states.

What are the goals for Shriners Honolulu?

Our goal has always been to be the center of excellence in providing the highest quality of pediatric orthopaedic care for the children in the Pacific. Part of that goal is to care for as many children as we can in our new hospital. We’re also a teaching hospital with an affiliation to the University of Hawaii, providing training for residents who eventually practice here in Hawaii. In that sense, the hospital actually benefits many people who may need orthopaedic care, beyond just our patients. As part of a 22-hospital system, we also participate in groundbreaking research that benefits all of those with orthopaedic conditions.

What do you see as the future in orthopaedic surgery?

The advancement of technology has really changed the way we practice medicine. We are doing fewer and fewer invasive surgeries. Surgical incisions are smaller, and new products are being developed to help bones heal faster. I think, in the future, there will be the need for fewer surgeries. Genetic testing also has improved. We may be able to identify children who need help earlier rather than later. Although medicine has advanced to improve lives, other new problems come up. In Hawaii, there is an epidemic with ice addiction, and we are seeing a lot of babies being born with conditions that later develop into orthopaedic problems. For example, babies born with a certain amount of brain damage can then develop orthopaedic problems in the future, so Shriners Hospital will become even more valuable in filling an important healthcare niche here in the Islands.


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