Meet Upper Extremity Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Debra Parisi
Dr. Debra Parisi’s surgical practice combines a biomedical engineering background with her passion for helping people. She treats complex conditions of the elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand.
During her small-town childhood in New York, Dr. Debra Parisi didn’t have dreams of becoming a surgeon. But she vividly remembers the two experiences that redirected her to a medical career.
An educational background well suited to orthopedics
“I always loved science, especially biology,” she says. “I was fortunate enough to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering at Duke University. During an internship at IBM, I found myself working in a room with 20 computers and not a single person. That’s when I realized that if I wanted to work with people—and I did—a medical degree was my better choice.”
In medical school, Dr. Parisi reasoned that cardiology or radiology would complement her engineering background. “I didn’t think that surgery would be my passion, because I’m not a morning person,” she laughs. That changed with her surgery rotation. “I just loved it,” she remembers. “I thought it was amazing that we could go in and help cure people’s problems through surgery. The biomechanics and engineering in orthopedics were a perfect match with my undergraduate education.”
Following medical school and residency, Dr. Parisi completed a fellowship focused on surgery for upper extremity conditions. After practicing in Manhattan and the Hudson Valley for over a decade, Dr. Parisi crossed paths with residency colleague Dr. Edward Su at a conference. They met for dinner to catch up. “My husband and I wanted to raise our family in an urban environment with lots of outdoorsy activities,” she recalls. “Dr. Su invited me to visit Summit Orthopedics and meet some of the doctors. I was impressed that Summit shared my philosophy about practicing medicine. And my husband and I thought the Twin Cities offered the kind of life we wanted our children to have. We’re still in our first year, but it feels like a really good fit.”
Dr. Parisi explains her approach to patient care
“I think that the most important tenet of practicing medicine is excellence in patient care,” she says. “If you give patients a good experience and provide excellent care, everything else will fall into place. For me, it’s really important to sit across from the patient and listen to what he or she is experiencing before making a diagnosis or offering a management plan. Patients are individuals. I want to honor each patient’s uniqueness and tailor the care to personal needs and lifestyle.”
Treating patients is the highlight of Dr. Parisi’s work
“I love a lot of aspects of what I do,” she smiles. “Helping people is wonderful. There’s nothing better than reassuring someone who is scared and concerned about a health issue. I enjoy helping them through the process of diagnosis and management and treatment. I value the experience of addressing the mechanics of the human body in the operating room; it’s intellectually fascinating work.
“For me, medicine is about knowing how to approach and solve problems,” Dr. Parisi concludes. “The human body is nuanced, and the practice of medicine is often more an art than a science. Physicians practice this art in the service of their patients. It’s wonderful to see patients happy because their function is no longer compromised and they are finally pain-free. I think that’s the most rewarding aspect of what I do.”