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Top Doctors is an annual survey of health care professionals conducted by PHOENIX magazine. Use this peer-selected list of the Valley's best physicians to make important decisions about your medical care.

Top Doctors 2017: Waiting Room

Written by Editorial Staff Category: Health & Fitness Issue: April 2017
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Performance-Enhancing Doctors
If you’re a medical resident and you fancy a career rubbing elbows – or rotator cuffs, as the case may be – with high-profile clients, your preferred field choice is clear: orthopedic surgery, and its offshoots, sports medicine and hand surgery. Several of our perennial Top Docs work closely with professional Valley sports franchises and their trainers to provide care for local athletes.

Having mended such sports stars as Phoenix Coyotes wing Shane Doan and Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu (pictured), OrthoArizona surgeons Dr. Gary Waslewski (pictured, left) and Dr. Douglas Freedberg (right) gave us a blow-by-blow of their work.

Do you operate on players together?
GW: “Doug and I do operate on the Cardinals players together. The Cardinals coverage requires a lot of time – not just to travel with the team... but also time at the facility during the work week. When we operate together both of us know exactly the pathology and plan together how to treat the player. I also scrub in as an assistant when our team hand surgeon and foot/ankle surgeon do surgery on my Cardinals players.”

Working with professional athletes, do you feel any added performance pressure? As in: “The Coyotes’ season is riding on this ACL fix”?
DF: “At this stage of my career, I don’t feel any added pressure operating on professional athletes. Over years of experience in residency and fellowship, both of which were very high-profile centers, and now with 17-plus years in practice, I feel these cases are just part of the fabric of my days. I recall early in my practice, operating on a good friend of mine and for a moment thought, ‘Wow, this is my buddy.’ But then when the case started, I was back in the zone and not conscious of the issue.”

GW: “We do see some injuries in pro sports that are more complex either because of severity of injury or timing of recovery, due to the season schedule. Tyrann’s first injury [ACL/LCL tears] was extremely severe – not something you see in the textbooks. I consulted prior to the surgery with my mentor Dr. James Andrews and discussed our surgical game plan. He gave me some great advice – ‘pearls’ as they are called in medicine, if certain situations were to arise.”

What are the most common injuries in the respective major sport?
DF: “[For young] baseball players: elbow and shoulder strains from overuse. For adults: shoulder labral tears and rotator cuff tearing.

Football: The bad injury is the ACL, with basically [the] loss of a season. As surgeons, we don’t deal much with concussions directly, but clearly these are troubling.

Hockey: AC (shoulder separation) and groin issues.

Basketball: ankle sprains and patellar tendinitis.”


To view the 2017 Top Doctor's Profiles
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Healing Hemingways
The stereotype is 100 percent accurate – physicians have grotesque handwriting. But some of them can really write. Check out these recent literary releases from current and former Top Docs.

Backbone: The Life and Game-Changing Career of a Spinal Neurosurgeon  
by Volker K.H. Sonntag, M.D. (Lisa Hagen Books)
The longtime Barrow Brain and Spine bigwig reflects on his most harrowing cases as a top neurosurgeon, and his life story as a Cold War émigré from East Germany.
Autism and the Extended Family
by Raun Melmed, M.D. (Future Horizons, Inc.)
One of the Valley’s leading authorities on Austism Spectrum Disorder, Melmed turns his learned clinical eye to the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins of his patients, examining the complex relationships that arise in the wake of an autism diagnosis in the family.
The Paleo Cardiologist: The Natural Way to Heart Health
by Jack Wolfson, D.O. (Morgan James Publishing)
Holistic medicine advocate – and sometimes anti-vaxxer darling – Wolfson drills deep into the topic of cardiovascular health, spanning diet, sleep, testing and more.


M.D. Versatility
It’s not uncommon for industrious physicians to collect more than one specialty or fellowship over the course of a career, but some docs collect them like neckties. Some impressive Top Doc CVs from this year’s list:

Tom Fitch, M.D.
Top Doc Specialty: Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Additional specialties: Hematology, Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology

Jeremy Feldman, M.D.
Top Doc Specialty: Pulmonary Disease
Additional specialties: Critical Care Medicine, Internal Medicine

Troy Anderson, M.D.
Top Doc Specialty: Neurology
Additional specialties: Sleep Medicine, Bariatrics

In Absentia
These multi-year Top Docs left us since the last issue.

Daniel Kessler, M.D.
Developmental Pediatrics (1998, 2002, 2004, 2011-2016) Retired.

Ted Diethrich, M.D.
Cardiovascular Surgery (1997, 2001-2002, 2005-2010) Passed away in February after a years-long battle with brain cancer.

Glen J McCracken, M.D.
Emergency Medicine (2005, 2009, 2015) Retired.

Allen Kaplan, M.D.
Pediatric Neurology (1995-1996, 1998-1999, 2001-2002, 2004, 2006-2009, 2011-2016) Retired.