March 01, 2021

Meet Abby Cheng, MD

Assistant Professor, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (Physiatry)

Dr. Cheng specializes in nonsurgical management of all bone and muscle injuries, with an emphasis in treating young adult hip problems and sports-related injuries.

Where are you from?
Evansville, Indiana – The third largest city in the state.

What made you choose orthopedics as a specialty? 

I majored in biomedical engineering in college, and I’ve always loved the musculoskeletal system. I chose physiatry as a specialty because I believe in the goal of helping patients maximize their quality of life by focusing on function, and I think it’s essential to consider the whole patient (from head to toe) in order to do this.

What brought you to Washington University Orthopedics?

The amazing people in the department drew me in. I first worked with our orthopedic physiatry division when I was a medical student here at Washington University, and it’s truly an honor to work alongside them now. 

What aspect of your practice do you find most interesting or rewarding?

I love focusing my time on clinical research*, and I hope to make a positive difference in many lives through the research work that I do. But, there’s something irreplaceable about the gratitude expressed by a patient when he/she feels heard, understood and has a sense of hope for the first time in a long while. 

What’s the best advice you ever received?

“Be grateful. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Just do your best, and do it now.”

If you weren’t a doctor, what would you like to be doing? 

I have twin infants and a three-year old…who have been trapped in my house since COVID started. If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d give almost anything to be sleeping right now…a sentiment I think a lot of moms can relate to right now!  

For more about Dr. Cheng, visit the School of Medicine newsroom, or check out her physician profile.

*Dr. Cheng’s research interests include young-adult hip disorders, comprehensive patient-centered musculoskeletal care, lifestyle medicine approach to musculoskeletal care, acupuncture, mobile health (mHealth) technology and disparities in musculoskeletal care.

Her ongoing research support includes:

Predicting Patient-Reported Outcomes in Patients with Pre-Arthritic Hip Disorders
Doris Duke Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists (Doris Duke Charitable Foundation)
Cheng, Abby L (PI), 12/1/20 – 11/30/21
This supplement was awarded to promote research continuity and retention of early-career physician-scientists. It is intended to supplement work on the K23AR74520 award.

Predicting Patient-Reported Outcomes in Patients with Pre-Arthritic Hip Disorders
K23AR074520 Supplement, NIH/NIAMS
Cheng, Abby L (PI), 09/10/20 – 08/31/21
This Administrative Supplement to Promote Research Continuity and Retention of NIH Mentored Career Development (K) Award Recipients and Scholars (NOT-OD-20-054) supplements work on the parent K23 award.

Mental Health, Mobile Health, and the EMR
Big Ideas Innovation Grant, Washington University / BJC HealthCare
Cheng, Abby L (PI), 08/01/20 – 07/31/21
The goal of this project is to address psychological impairment in patients seeking conservative care for musculoskeletal pain by improving physicians’ awareness of patients’ anxiety and depression symptoms, offering patients access to an affordable, confidential, smartphone app that teaches research-based techniques to improve mental resiliency and enabling physicians to visualize how often patients use the smartphone app so that physician-patient discussions can be more personalized and effective.

Predicting Patient-Reported Outcomes in Patients with Pre-Arthritic Hip Disorders
K23AR074520, NIH/NIAMS
Cheng, Abby L (PI), 08/01/19 – 06/30/24
The goal of this project is to improve management of patients with pre-arthritic hip disorders by identifying modifiable predictors of chronic pain and/or progression to surgery and creating a clinical prediction tool that assists clinicians in developing patient-specific management plans that address both anatomic and psychosocial impairments.



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