April 12, 2021
Meet Alexander Aleem, MD, MSc
Assistant Professor, Shoulder and Elbow Division
Program Director, Orthopaedic Surgery Residency
Dr. Aleem specializes in the surgical and nonsurgical treatment of rotator cuff tears, shoulder and elbow instability, shoulder and elbow injuries in the throwing athlete, biceps tendon injuries, frozen shoulder and arthritis of the shoulder and elbow.
Dr. Aleem’s research interests include clinical outcomes research on shoulder replacement surgery, biomechanics of shoulder replacements, and long-term clinical outcomes of rotator cuff repair. Additional research interests include development of new implant designs and value-based research in shoulder and elbow surgery.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Atlanta, GA, but was actually born in St. Louis. I am a hardcore Atlanta sports fan, and love college football. Go Dawgs!
What made you choose orthopedics as a specialty?
I’ve always had an affinity towards orthopedic surgery. I remember asking my father when I was growing up what kind of doctors take care of the Atlanta Braves (my favorite team growing up), and he said orthopedic surgeons. I have an engineering background and was drawn to the mechanical nature of orthopedics in medical school. As orthopedic surgeons, we have a real privilege to be able to restore function in patients with debilitating conditions. I found the variety of procedures really exciting and that all the orthopedic surgeons I worked worth had an extreme amount of satisfaction with their careers.
What brought you to Washington University Orthopedics?
I came to Washington University for medical school and was fortunate enough to stay on for residency. When a job opening came up to join faculty, it was a no-brainer. WashU Orthopedics is an international leader in the field, and the people who make this place tick are amazing. Everyone here is amazingly accomplished yet incredibly humble and approachable.
What aspect of your practice do you find most interesting or rewarding?
In the field of shoulder and elbow surgery, there are a lot of exciting areas with such a great variety. Shoulder arthroplasty (replacements) are one of my favorite procedures as they provide such an impressive improvement in people’s function. I love that on one day I can fix rotator cuffs through minimally invasive techniques, and later in the week I am facing a challenging reconstruction.
Are you working on any interesting clinical trials or studies right now?
The shoulder and elbow division has a robust research program, with long-standing studies investigating rotator cuff tears and surgical outcomes in shoulder and elbow surgery. Personally, I am very interested in studying infection following shoulder replacement surgery, as it is unique to other joint replacements. I am also very interested in studying how we can better train our future orthopedic surgeons.
What’s on the horizon for shoulder patient care?
Shoulder replacement surgery is going to continue to grow and be a larger part of care for people’s shoulders. We are also learning more and more about the genetic reasons for rotator cuff tears and may be able to have some real exciting new treatments on the horizon.
Why is it so important to invest in the training and leadership for future orthopedic surgeons?
In a training program, we have the opportunity to impact the lives of all the patients that our residents interact with in their current and future careers. Medicine, especially orthopedic surgery, is constantly evolving. We need to ensure that future surgeons have all the tools necessary to be leaders in the field when the graduate. The greatest satisfaction I get as a teacher is seeing the impact our residents have on their patients’ lives.
What are the benefits to patients being treated at an academic medical center?
I think there are a lot of benefits to this. Academic medical centers are always at the cutting edge when it comes to patient treatment. Resident and fellows are reading the newest papers, and teaching requires me (and all educators) to be up to date as well. With residents and fellows involved in their care, patients have the benefit of having many physicians (and problem-solving approaches) as part of their treatment team.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
A lot of different people have given me advice that I still hold on to. My father, who is a physician, told me at an early age that this is more than a job, it’s a vocation, and there is a lot of responsibility that comes with being a physician…taking care of people is a privilege. Many of my mentors have always told me to “do the right thing” for your patient, regardless of how hard it is.
What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?
I love spending time with my family (my wife, Taylor, our very new second child, Isabelle, 3-year-old son, Henry, and 4-year-old dog Weasley) and watching college football on Saturdays in the fall.
If you weren’t a doctor, what would you like to be doing?
Either a teacher or a professional sportscaster.
Dr. Aleem is the director for the orthopaedic surgery residency program at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital, currently the #3 orthopedic residency program in the country (Doximity). We welcome you to learn more about our residency program, our Washington University community and our other academic training programs.
Learn more about Dr. Aleem and why patients choose Washington University Orthopedics.