Meet Hand Surgeon Dr. Blake Hildahl

Orthopedic hand and upper extremity surgeon Dr. Blake Hildahl explains how his passion for technical puzzles and his own early experience as an orthopedic patient shaped his medical career.

“As a boy growing up in La Crosse, Wisconsin, I always enjoyed fixing things with my dad,” laughs hand, elbow, and shoulder surgeon Dr. Blake Hildahl. “And I loved playing with Legos.” When a basketball injury took him out of the game and into the orthopedic surgeon’s office, Dr. Hildahl glimpsed his future. “My injury was traumatic,” he remembers, “but seeing how my surgeon worked was fascinating.”

Dr. Hildahl offers diagnostic skills honed by athletic training experience

In college, he explored combining a physical therapy degree with an athletic training degree. “I was an athletic training student as an undergrad,” Dr. Hildahl explains. “I got to see sports injuries from the sidelines, triage athletes right on the field, and send them to an orthopedic surgeon as needed. During this experience, I had the opportunity to watch an orthopedic surgeon in the operating room. The beauty of taking something broken and putting it back together fascinated me. I fell in love with surgery immediately. The combination of caring for patients and the art of fixing bones and soft tissue was my perfect fit.”

A collaborative approach delivers comprehensive care

Dr. Hildahl found another perfect fit when he interviewed at Summit Orthopedics. “My wife and I knew we wanted to come home to the Midwest; we love it here. And I was so impressed with the hand surgeons at Summit. It’s very rare to find a group of 10 hand surgeons in a practice. They were really nice people; they spoke from the heart and emphasized collaboration. Practicing in an atmosphere of collegial subspecialty expertise raises the quality of patient care. That was important to me.”

Dr. Hildahl’s philosophy of care

“My philosophy of patient care is simple,” Dr. Hildahl declares. “I treat my patients the way I would treat a member of my family. My practice is diverse. I see little kids, I see elderly people, and I see everyone in between. Fractures may be my favorite condition to treat. There’s something gratifying about taking something that is broken and restoring it to the beautiful anatomy we were born with. Then the gratifying part comes when my patients return and tell me, ‘My arm works again. I can sleep. I can garden.’ I love that. It makes all the sweat, late nights, and sleepless nights thinking about my patients worth it.”

Building relationships with humor

“I still remember the first gift I got from a patient,” Dr. Hildahl chuckles. “I was a second-year resident and treated a guy for fractures after a skydiving accident. He felt so foolish that his chute didn’t open in time. He told me about a clown magnet he had on his car that said, ‘Did I eat a bowl of stupid for breakfast?’ We laughed about that magnet while I was treating him. He was a great guy, and we got along well. When he came in for follow-up, he presented that magnet to me as a gift. I’ve had it on my locker ever since.”

That patient gift reminds Dr. Hildahl that laughter can be valuable. “Sharing a sense of humor with my patients matters to me,” he says. “I know what it’s like to struggle with an arm injury, and I know how great it feels to recover and get back to favorite activities. When my patients are able to laugh along the path to recovery, I hope it makes their journey back to health a little easier.”

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  • Blake Hildahl, M.D., ATC

    “No operation should be carried out unless absolutely necessary… nor should a surgeon operate unless he would undergo the same operation himself in similar circumstances.” – John Hunter

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