, Salem, MA

Local News

January 21, 2013

North Shore surgeon shares insights from recent trip to China

PEABODY — When he operates on a patient at Sports Medicine North, whether for rotator cuff repair or arthroscopic knee surgery, James O’Holleran brings more than the latest in Western medicine.

It’s true his recent trip to China was an opportunity to teach, to show his Chinese colleagues new American orthopedic techniques. And he performed surgery on two local patients. In Nanjing that meant operating on television, viewed by the hospital’s entire orthopedic department and eventually by the audience of a local station.

“That was a unique opportunity,” he says.

He spoke at sports medicine conferences and offered instruction or demonstrations to nearly 500 doctors.

But it wasn’t a one-way street, says O’Holleran, 42, who lives in Hamilton with his wife and four kids.

“I learned a lot,” he says. “It’s helping me become a better doctor.”

After 10 days he left Asia knowing more about Chinese medicine, about the world’s most populous society and about his own country.

Born in Nebraska, one of nine children, O’Holleran has pursued a career in the growing field of sports medicine, meaning the repair of joint and bone injuries — especially shoulders and knees — seen so often among athletes. He brought an impressive resume to China, including a degree from Yale Medical School and a stint at the Harvard Combined Orthopaedic Residency Program.

His work with athletes included a period in 2004-2005 when he served as the assistant doctor to the New York Giants.

Expertise in football injuries includes his own shoulder surgery “when I was young.” But he downplays his gridiron career saying, “I wasn’t good enough to play football for the (University of Nebraska) Cornhuskers.”

His skill as a surgeon, however, has won him fellowships. In 2007 that sent him on a teaching tour of medical facilities in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan.

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