March 24, 2021

Meet Jonathon Backus, MD 

Assistant Professor, Foot and Ankle Division

Dr. Backus specializes in adult foot and ankle care, including ankle impingement, ankle instability, syndesmosis injuries, osteochondral lesions of the talus, ankle arthritis, and foot and ankle trauma. Dr. Backus also has a special interest in treating sports injuries in athletes of all abilities.

Dr. Backus’ research interests include syndesmotic anatomy and injuries, ankle instability, Achilles tendon rupture treatment, posttraumatic arthritis, osteochondral lesions of the talus, and foot and ankle trauma.

Where are you from? 

A small farm town in the middle of a corn field, just east of St. Louis, MO.

What made you choose orthopedics as a specialty? 

After my second year of medical school, I really started to love the carpentry of orthopaedics. I like being able make freehanded cuts to try to recreate the arch and shape of foot, and placing hardware in ways to best address each patient’s unique problem. And if I’m being honest, traditional carpentry wouldn’t pay for my student loans at that point!

What brought you to Washington University Orthopedics? 

I was really interested in getting back into research and asking new questions surrounding the care we provide to patients. I left private practice to achieve this goal, as Washington University Orthopedics has an outstanding research platform.

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

Every so often, I have a new thought on this. Sometimes it is addressing a difficult patient problem and helping people, sometimes it is watching a resident grow and improve, sometimes it is the chance to collaborate with partners and providers outside of our department. There is a lot still to find interesting and rewarding in our practice. I find it hard to name just one thing.

What’s the best advice you ever received? 

I’m paraphrasing, but “You don’t have to hurry to become an efficient surgeon. Just do each step only once.” - Richard Gelberman, MD

What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?

Hike and ski with my family!

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

I think I would have been a very happy wood worker. These days, I don't have much time for big projects and am mostly just a handy man. I did build a table with my father and it's still in my dining room. 

In research, Dr. Backus and his team are currently investigating syndesmosis, lateral ligament repair and total ankle arthroplasty. 

For more about Dr. Backus, check out his physician profile.

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