Dr. Padraic Obma and Mako, the robotic arm-assisted technology he uses to perform joint replacement surgery.
When I finally corralled Padraic Obma – and it’s a challenge to do so – we started with a topic about which I know a great deal: TV viewing.
I launched into a description of the plethora of shows I currently manage, as well as the juggling of satellite providers and streaming services so I have access to every single TV series ever made.
“About a year ago, we cut the TV satellite cord,” Obma said. “I always liked to read, but I was a bit lazy. Now I find I read all the time.”
Two minutes in and I already felt like a slacker.
Then, for no reason at all, I began talking about myself and how my dad was a teacher who inspired me and four of my siblings to become teachers. I asked Dr. Obma what his father did for a living.
“Cardiologist,” he said. “Ending up like your parents is normal, I think.”
Talking about dads was an immediate connection, and our conversation continued nonstop until, a half hour later, he was called upon to provide patient care.
“Compelling, and very cool”
A Wisconsin kid who naturally gravitated to medicine, Padraic (“Call me Paddy”) Obma chose orthopedics over cardiology due to its hands-on nature, which offered him the perfect combination of intellect and practical skills.
“I did look at other options, but medicine is what I knew and it was comfortable to me,” Obma said.
Obma began his career in Green Bay at Prevea Health, building his practice and becoming one of their busiest sports medicine surgeons by the time he left in 2015. Specializing there in arthroscopic surgery of the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, and ankle, Obma was quick to identify what first attracted him to orthopedics and what continues to propel him forward.
“You have the ability to get up each day and have a positive impact on multiple people’s lives,” he said. “That’s compelling, and very cool.”
Obma joined the Orthopedic & Sports Institute (OSI) in 2016 and now nimbly divides his time between De Pere, the location of his primary clinic, and the OSI flagship facility in Appleton, where he performs surgery. He also provides care to the Potawatomi Nation in Crandon. While a requisite amount of traveling and being on the go is always part of Obma’s schedule, his philosophy for serving patients matches his relaxed demeanor.
“Our clinic doesn’t try to crank people in and out every five or ten minutes,” said Obma. “We’re about developing relationships and a rapport, and we try to make our practice family-oriented.”
He’s not kidding about the connection between work and family. His three children accompany him on his weekend rounding of patients, something he did with his father as a boy. His wife, Laura, is his partner in all things and is essential in keeping her husband on track with his schedule. His assistants bring their kids to work when sitters can’t be found. His entire staff is an extended family.
“It’s important to have our families interwoven because it helps create a culture I value,” said Obma.
“And that’s NOVO”
As a member of the OSI team, Obma is also part of NOVO Health, the group that unites independent single specialty healthcare providers like OSI and connects them with self-funded employers. Working under the NOVO umbrella is a topic about which Obma is passionate. What NOVO brings to the table, says Obma, has clear benefits for employers and their employees.
"If you’re an employer, NOVO offers an excellent level of care with lower complication rates at a competitive or better cost,” said Obma. “If you’re a patient, you’re looking for high quality medical services that focus on creating the best possible patient experience, and that’s NOVO.”
NOVO Health bundles pricing for a growing list of medical procedures, including traditionally high cost orthopedic surgeries like hip and knee replacement, which results in a single bill for an entire episode of care with a price point known up front. A limited warranty is included and employers typically pass a portion of their savings on to employees through reduced out of pocket expenses or a cash bonus when they select high-value NOVO providers for bundled procedures.
“Improved outcomes and reduced cost are difficult to argue with,” said Obma, “and by reduced cost, I mean it is not uncommon to see six to seven figure savings per year for companies, depending on their size, if they optimize working with NOVO.”
“Where everything is headed to”
Another passion of Obma’s is Mako, the robotic arm-assisted surgical technique that has led Obma to doing hip and knee replacement surgery. Obma says the Mako technology melds perfectly with the skill set he developed as a sports medicine surgeon and has provided him with the confidence and ability to provide an exceptional operation for patients over and over again.
“The platform makes for a much more accurate, precise, and reproducible operation,” said Obma. “I absolutely love it.”
The Mako platform utilizes a robotic arm that is guided by the surgeon in an area pre-defined by accompanying technology. Obma firmly believes robotic surgery is the future of orthopedics and bristles when critics describe it as either a gimmick, a fad, or mere marketing.
“Oh really? Every single orthopedic company is moving towards a robotic platform,” Obma states. “That’s where everything is and where everything is headed to.”
“It goes well beyond that”
In his time between Prevea and OSI, Obma directed a sizable portion of his energy to the development of his startup company, Strive Orthopedics.
Obma describes his company as a “software as medical device platform” that focuses on self-diagnostics and wearable technology to facilitate remote orthopedic care. In layman’s terms, patients have the ability to perform their own examinations and provide information about their episode of care.
Strive’s smart wearable technology was developed to monitor healing of joint-related injuries using sensor technology that is applied directly to the skin or integrated into orthopedic braces. Obma says the technology – designed for athletes, arthritis sufferers, and literally anyone with orthopedic pain – engages patients in their own medical journey and optimizes their care path.
“The data that is supplied empowers patients, but it goes well beyond that,” says Obma. “Healthcare providers will have more and better information, and our technology will significantly accelerate the adoption of telemedicine.”
Currently in a pilot phase, Obma looks to have regulatory approval for Strive within the next year.
Obma concluded by talking about his family, the center of his world and what connects all the moving parts.
He spoke of his upcoming trip to Wales to visit family and expressed confidence that his children, ages 10, 8, and 5, would do well on an international flight. He admitted he’s okay with traveling alone, but it’s “so not the same as traveling with family.” And he expressed how he works hard to intertwine career and family.
“It’s about creating a balance, and achieving harmony,” said Obma.
When his patient arrived, Obma ended the chat by returning to the beginning, to our fathers, and to the professions we pursued.
“Much like teachers, physicians are just humbly attempting to improve the quality of life,” he said.