One sleepless night in Seattle
A serendipitous story of two surgeons who met one morning in an operating room and formed a lifelong friendship.
As the doctors diligently work to repair the infected hip of a premature, 2-pound infant, they reminisce and laugh about medical school. It’s 2 in the morning, and as the rest of Seattle sleeps, Dr. John Hendrickson and Dr. Fred Huang have discovered a connection that will bond them forever — they are both University of Florida College of Medicine graduates.
Their revelation came to light when Hendrickson, who had never before met Huang, entered the operating room at Seattle Children’s Hospital to offer his assistance and commented on the heat lamp that was keeping the infant warm — warm enough to remind him of Gainesville.
That chance meeting in the operating room in 2001 led the two orthopaedic surgeons to form a partnership and friendship that has lasted 12 years.
Hendrickson, a 1975 graduate of the College of Medicine, worked in private practice at Valley Orthopedic Associates and volunteered half a day each week at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where he was running a pediatric trauma clinic with residents.
“Pediatric trauma was his way to experience something different in his work, other than private practice,” said Huang, who received his medical degree in 1996. “Similar to how I came out to Washington for residency to see something new and increase my exposure to the world.”
Because they share a love for the Gators, the two doctors identified with one another.
“Aside from cheering for the same football team every fall, I was struck by how genuinely enthusiastic he was about everything. You could tell him apart from the other residents,” Hendrickson said. “From there, we developed a relationship watching Gator football games together and joining the Seattle Gator Club.”
With Huang’s residency ending, Hendrickson asked him to come on board at his private practice and work as his partner. While Huang had plans to return to Florida, he decided it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
The orthopaedists — who both specialize in trauma surgery, sports injuries, arthroscopic surgery and knee replacement — share one work space and consult each other at least half a dozen times each day. When one takes on a challenging case, the other jumps in to help operate.
“Most people in a practice don’t have that kind of relationship. Doctors don’t always help other doctors,” Hendrickson said. “Fred and I have a smooth flow in surgery; it’s almost like a dance. He knows exactly what I need, and I know exactly what he needs.”
They both admit that they learn from one another.
“I think the thing that’s made this unique from Day 1 is that he asks my opinion about things, despite his seniority,” Huang said. “He wants to learn from people and be progressive, and I think some doctors get to a point where they don’t care to learn more; they just want to do things their way. It’s a quality I hope I can carry on and one of the greatest things he’s taught me—to never stop learning.”
1948Hendrickson is born in Madison, Wis.
1971Huang is born in Man, W. Va., and his family moves to Plant City, Fla., which he calls home.
1975Hendrickson completes medical school at UF.
1981Hendrickson completes fellowship training in sports medicine in Aspen, Colo., and completes residency at the University of Washington in Seattle.
1996Huang completes medical school at UF.
1999Hendrickson and Huang meet in an operating room at Seattle Children's Hospital while operating on the infected hip of a 2-pound, premature infant.
2000Huang, then a chief resident, and Hendrickson arrive at the Seattle Gator Club to watch the Gators together.
2001Huang completes residency at the University of Washington.
2000Hendrickson and Huang go into private practice together at Proliance Orthopedic Associates.
In Hendrickson, Huang has found a close friend and mentor he is able to work with every day. He said he will miss that terribly when Hendrickson retires at the end of the year, but he does look forward to working with the resident they have recently recruited from the University of Washington — who coincidentally is married to a Gator alumna.
“Now it’s like a new role for me — to be the mentor and friend Dr. Hendrickson was to me,” Huang said. “I jokingly told him in his interview that if he’d gone to UF, he wouldn’t have really even had to interview.”
Outside of work, the two doctors enjoy spending time together — whether it’s to go out for dinner or watch a game together.
“We are just very similar,” Hendrickson said. “We both believe in balance. He’s not a workaholic; he honors his friends and family but still has an incredible work ethic. I think we both have that in common.”
Even though Hendrickson’s children are now adults (John, 30 and Casey, 28) and Huang’s children are much younger (Kaylee, 7; Scott, 5; and Leena, 3), their wives get along great. Huang’s wife, Loan Bui, is also a Gator graduate and Hendrickson’s wife, Melissa, has “just as much Gator fever.”
“Even though we’re 4,000 miles away from Gainesville, it’s fun to be somewhere in the country with other people who have Gator spirit,” Hendrickson said. “It’s so delightful to see someone here wearing Gator gear.”