Ask the Orthopedist: Dr. Mark Rieger

Why did you decide to specialize in pediatric orthopedics?

From a young age, I have always worked with my hands, building models and doing carpentry. During college, I worked in the hospitality industry where I met and enjoyed working with people, including many physicians who talked about their work and how they were changing lives. My grandmother was also an enormous influence; she used to say, “If you can change a child’s life, you can change the world.” Dr. John Hall at Boston Children’s Hospital was also a tremendous influence and the consummate human being. He taught me the importance of treating pediatric patients as if they were members of my own family. I feel truly blessed that I can go into work every day and potentially change a child’s life for the better.

Tell us a little more about your specialty, in particular.

I am perhaps best known for treating sports injuries and scoliosis. But I also pioneered the use of ultrasound as a screening tool for hip dysplasia. I also was among the first in New Jersey to employ a non-operative treatment for clubfoot.

Do you have a story about a special patient that you have treated?

Jesse was 12 years old when I was a Fellow. His medical condition severely limited his use of his extremities. He underwent approximately 10 surgeries during the year I treated him, and I saw how dramatically his life was transformed as a result. Not only did I see how a physician could meaningfully change a child’s life, I also learned a great deal from him – specifically, how much a child can positively influence a physician. Despite having to face huge daily challenges of basic living, Jesse had such a positive outlook. We shared jokes with each other all the time, and I have a picture of this extraordinary child in my office still today.

What is exciting to you about your field right now?

The advances that we have made in pediatric orthopedic care are dramatic. For example, in our practice we have an EOS x-ray machine which only emits 10% of the radiation previously associated with traditional x-ray technology. During the treatment of scoliosis, many x-rays are required so this new technology dramatically reduces a child’s exposure to radiation. We also have new technology that allows us to perform minimally-invasive spine surgery, dramatically reducing the potential risk for spinal cord or nerve damage during surgery, and new rapid recovery systems for scoliosis surgery which requires only a two-day hospital stay!

When you are not working, how do you like to enjoy your free time?

More than anything, I love to spend time with my family and friends. But I also enjoy the calm of spending time in my rowboat on the lake. And of course, I enjoy exercising – jogging and light weight training, to be specific.

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