Dr. Joel Stewart had not planned on being a doctor. But, after noticing his strong abilities in a chemistry class, a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy suggested he look into medicine.
He did, and it turned out to be a game changer.
The suggestion led Stewart, a self-professed nerd who originally wanted to be a pilot, to his passion, and he has realized success ever since.
A native of North Dakota, Stewart, 52, is an orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon who joined Orthopaedic and Spine Center (OSC) in Newport News in January.
Being an orthopaedic doctor combines everything Stewart loves: medicine, carpentry and a good challenge. “There is so much you can do with it,” he says. “There is a lot of variation.”
Stewart, who comes from a military family, graduated from the Naval Academy and went on to Harvard Medical School. He joined the U.S. Navy and worked as the senior medical officer onboard the USS Wasp for operations in Haiti, the North Atlantic and in the Mediterranean Sea. He was later stationed at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth on the Foot and Ankle Reconstructive Trauma Team. He has served in Okinawa, Bahrain and lraq.
Stewart began civilian practice in 2008. Joining OSC fit perfectly into his life puzzle. His wife is a graduate of the College of William & Mary and his son attends Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Newport News. Before joining OSC, he was working at the Virginia Institute for Sports Medicine in Virginia Beach. Stewart lives in Suffolk on a horse farm, so he was looking for a shorter commute.
“This was an opportunity to be closer to home,” he says. “It’s half the distance.”
Stewart delights in what he does and draws great satisfaction from helping his patients move away from pain and toward active lifestyles. He particularly enjoys focusing on repairing sports-related injuries.
“I fell in love with the sports side,” says Stewart, who was a triathlete sidelined by injury.
He prides himself on being thorough and not rushing through appointments. He likes talking with patients and getting to the bottom of what is bothering them.
“Each patient is important and individual,” he says. “I really listen to what patients say. I take time to treat each patient as an individual. I tend to be a little slower, a little behind. I talk with patients and figure out how to make them better. My goal is a whole lot of betters.”
Stewart always tells his patients what to expect during and after surgery and makes sure they know he will be with them throughout the whole process. He forms partnerships with patients so they are active participants in their care and healing.
“I love that part,” he says. “I tell them I’m going to be here with you the whole time. I am the one who will see you pre- and post-op. I want them to know that I will take care of them.”
An avid athlete, Stewart knows just how disheartening foot and ankle injuries can be. He understands how important it is to have healthy feet and ankles. “I try to keep people moving,” he says.
When Stewart, a bicyclist and wrestling coach for his son’s team, is not working, he is usually on his farm.
“I ride bikes and I ride tractors,” he says with a laugh.
TO THE POINT:
Joel D. Stewart, MD, orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon
Address: Orthopaedic and Spine Center, 250 Nat Turner Blvd., Newport News, VA 23606