September 28, 2021

Meet Devyani Hunt, MD

Professor, Orthopaedic Surgery and Neurology
Chief, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Medical Director, Washington University Living Well Center®

Dr. Hunt specializes in nonsurgical management of all bone, muscle and joint conditions and injuries, with a special interest in young adult hip problems, performing arts medicine, and female athletes (particularly injuries related to dancers, musicians and pregnancy-related problems). Dr. Hunt is co-director of the Medical Program for Performing Artists, and is medical director for the Washington University Living Well Center: a program that provides patients a unique and whole-person treatment approach.

Where are you from?

I grew up in St. Louis and went away for college and medical school in Texas. I never thought I would land back in St. Louis, but after my fellowship year here in 2004, I had a new appreciation for St. Louis and its many offerings. I really enjoy the rich arts scene, the great trails and outdoor opportunities, as well as all the interesting neighborhoods.

What made you choose orthopedics/PM&R as a specialty?

Since I was young I wanted to be a doctor. My undergraduate degree was in kinesiology (the study of human movement), and I was always very interested in the physics and biomechanics of how we move. I was lucky enough to go to a medical school with a strong PM&R department,  so I was exposed early in my medical career to Physiatry. After spending sometime with a sports physiatrist, it just clicked and I knew PM&R was for me.

What brought you to Washington University Orthopedics? 

During my residency at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, now known as the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, my mentor Joel Press, encouraged me to spend some time in St. Louis with Dr. Heidi Prather. He recognized our many overlapping interests. After my rotation here at Washington University, I was hooked and pursued a position as a fellow. I thought I would just be here for a year fellowship, but as I interviewed around the country, I realized the dream job I was describing was actually right here in St. Louis.

You recently became a full professor at Washington University…one of less than a hundred female PM&R professors in the country. What advice do you have for other women entering this specialty?  

I feel honored and humbled to join the ranks of other full professors at Washington University and beyond. I think I still have the stereotype of an old man with a grey beard in my head when I first hear the word "professor," so I hope I help our kids, trainees, colleagues and others to envision a wider range of individuals who fit the mold of a professor. My advice is to choose to pursue projects and endeavors that you are truly passionate about and align with your own personal beliefs and visions. It makes work less work!

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

I really enjoy working together with a patient to help them meet their goal; to get them from point A to point B. The journey is different with each and every one of them. As a physiatrist, I get to think outside the box, push the envelope of what’s possible and really practice the art of medicine.

We’re on the heels of the anniversary of the Washington University Living Well Center® (LWC). What’s been your favorite part of creating this unique healthcare center? 

The Living Well Center is such an exciting place. We are able to actually address the root cause of many disease processes that are often the barriers to patient’s musculoskeletal success. To practice health care and not sick care seems like a no-brainer, but it is actually an innovative care model that is way ahead of its time. I have really enjoyed building the programs and bringing together an amazing inter-professional staff of dedicated health care providers.

What’s on the horizon for the LWC?

We have a great deal planned for the next few months. We are about to publish our feasibility study that shows 80% of participants in our pilot study completed the intensive lifestyle program and 62% of them were able to reach their goal to either optimize to surgery or away from surgery. We are very proud of these results! The LWC also continues to expand its offerings and has added a post-COVID track to address fatigue and joint pain associated with Long COVID Syndrome. And our Movement Program will be available soon, with classes like Tai Chi via Zoom available to our patients, faculty and staff.

What’s the best advice you ever received and who/what was it from? 

I feel fortunate to have great mentors in my career. One of the most influential is Dr. Heidi Prather. She has taught me many lessons, but one that helps me make decisions every day, especially as the chief of my division, is that our mission begins and ends with our patients. 

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?

I love spending time with my family, traveling, and being outside. We went to Yosemite this summer and I could stare at those mountains and vistas for hours! I want to travel to all 50 states by 50 years old; Mission 50 by 50! I only have two years to get to North Dakota, Minnesota, Vermont and Maine.  I think I’m going to make it.

Dr. Hunt treats patients at the Center for Advanced Medicine, Children's Specialty Care Center, and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital. Learn more about Washington University Orthopedics, and why patients choose us for their care.


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