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.”