From teacher to physiatrist, Dr. Adam Bartlett was inspired to change careers after a major bicycle accident during training for the “Escape from Alcatraz” triathlon. His long rehabilitation course, before and after surgery, gave him an appreciation for physical medicine. While surgery often gives patients the potential for functional recovery, he believes it is the therapy — and the patient’s participation — that enables full recuperation.
Today, as Akron Children’s newest pediatric physiatrist in our NeuroDevelopmental Science Center, Dr. Bartlett will help patients restore functional ability and improve their quality of life in the inpatient rehab unit, as well as perform spasticity injection procedures. His expertise lies in the use of ultrasound guidance for chemodenervation procedures for pain management.
Though Dr. Bartlett is no longer a high-school teacher, he believes educating is still a major part of his job — whether it’s training staff or educating patients on conditions and treatments.
Why did you choose to come to Akron Children’s Hospital?
After spending much of my post-college career out west in Colorado and California, I wanted to come to Northeast Ohio to be closer to family. In researching the job options in the area, Akron Children’s stood out as clearly the best fit in terms of philosophy, mission, growth opportunities and especially the people!
Describe your role at Akron Children’s and what you hope to accomplish?
I joined the physiatry division within the NeuroDevelopmental Science Center (NDSC)
. Along with the other 4 physicians on our team, I will help staff in the inpatient rehab unit, perform spasticity injection procedures, and see outpatients in the NDSC and likely some satellite locations in the future.
Specifically, my expertise is in the use of ultrasound guidance for chemodenervation procedures, and I look forward to using this technique for our patients and helping to train other providers, as well.
What is your area of expertise and why did you choose it?
Pediatric rehabilitation involves the care of children with special needs, whether it’s congenital or acquired conditions. My pathway to this specialty was influenced by my first career as a high-school science teacher, my own experience as a patient after a serious bicycle accident, and rotations throughout medical training that reinforced my interest in childhood disability, musculoskeletal care and injection procedures.
Do you have a favorite instructor or mentor?
Dr. JenFu Cheng, who was my department chair and a primary teacher during my residency and fellowship training. He combines technical skill/knowledge with holistic care and family communication better than any physician I’ve worked with, and I strive to emulate this in my own practice.
How does your personality fit your role?
My friends, colleagues and especially my family note that I am obsessive about detail and like to talk a lot! While not appreciated in every context, in my role as a rehab doctor I find that families appreciate someone who spends the time to explain everything about their condition, prior treatments and future plans, including my and their other providers’ reasoning behind them.
In addition, advocating for our patients extensive medical and especially equipment needs involves copious notes, letters and applications that must be completed in exacting detail to achieve payor approval.
What do you think is the hardest part of your job?
Our most serious responsibility in rehab is when we make a new diagnosis of a chronic, lifelong disability. The discussion with families that follows is the hardest part of my job.
How do you deal with the emotional impact of being a provider?
Working with children with special needs and their families can be emotionally draining. Playing with my son when I get home helps to “recharge my batteries.” I also enjoy watching movies with my wife, running with and throwing the frisbee for my Aussie Shepherd, and attending sporting events.
What medical innovations do you think will have the most impact in the next 5 – 10 years?
The world of stem cell-based treatments and regenerative medicine holds much promise for our patients. Our colleagues in sports medicine are now using regenerative treatments regularly to treat joint pathology, tendonopathies and other musculoskeletal injuries. I am hopeful that with time these principles can be applied to treat our children with lifelong disabilities so they can regain function.
Who makes up your family, including pets and their names?
My wife, Kerry, my son, Harry (2.5), and our Aussie Shepherd, Heidi.
What is your greatest personal accomplishment?
I completed a full Ironman Triathlon in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2004: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and marathon (26.2-mile run) all in 1 day!
What are your favorite podcasts, books, movies or TV shows?
Podcast: Its Only a Game (NPR Sports)
Book: “The Perfect Mile” (about Roger Bannister breaking the 4-minute mile barrier)
TV Show: Game of Thrones
What’s the last adventure you went on?
My wife and I spent a week in Costa Rica just before starting my new job here. We zip lined in the rainforest, went scuba diving and swam in the ocean.
What was your first paying job?
I was a camp counselor and lifeguard at the local Jewish Community Center where I grew up in Buffalo, NY. Still working with kids today!