Meet Dr. Trevor Wahlquist
Patients of orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Trevor Wahlquist benefit from his focused surgical techniques and comprehensive approach to rehabilitation.
Dr. Trevor Wahlquist’s experience with the transformative power of orthopedic medicine is personal. “I was a wrestler in high school and my dad was the head coach of our team,” he recounts. “On the night before my first match as a freshman, I tore my ACL in practice. That injury ended my competition for my first match—and for the entire season. I was out. It was a huge letdown. But that traumatic injury is what introduced me to orthopedics. I underwent an ACL reconstruction and nine months of rehabilitation. I returned to wrestling and won the state wrestling championship. I was fascinated by the idea that an orthopedic procedure could address a pretty significant injury and return the injured person to a championship-winning level of physical performance.”
A graduate degree in nutrition
As a University of Minnesota undergrad, Dr. Wahlquist enjoyed the relational aspects of physical therapy. But the premed academic challenge won him over. After college, he headed to Columbia in New York for a graduate degree in human nutrition. “I grew up on a dairy farm in Baldwin, Wisconsin,” he says. “Health optimization has always been an interest. Proper diet is a vital component in personal health. I was concerned that medical school would offer less nutritional education than I wanted. At Columbia, I did a year of clinical work in nutrition and an additional six months of research. It was a fascinating experience.”
Dr. Wahlquist talks about formative patient experiences
“When I returned to Minnesota for medical school, it was orthopedics all the way,” he laughs. Although he initially planned to pursue a specialty in sports medicine, two patients changed his mind. The first was a farmer who fell from a hay wagon, fracturing his spine. “I grew up on a farm, and immediately identified with this man,” Dr. Wahlquist remembers. “We did a rod and screw construct to stabilize him. The next day, he demanded to be released. He had to get home to milk the cows. It was awesome to realize that orthopedics could make such a difference in a spine injury. Then, a 22-year-old rock climber came in with a back injury after a fall. We were able to get him back to daily activities—though not back to rock climbing—in three or four days. To see such remarkable recoveries after such serious injuries was powerful.
“I was in the demands of my residency at that point,” he remembers. “One night, I was talking with my wife about my experience. ‘Every day you come home from the spine rotation, you are excited. Do you realize that?” she asked me. She was right. I stepped back, decided to consider a subspecialty in spine, and never looked back.”
The rewards of spine practice
“I love the spectrum of patients I treat, the complexity of spine conditions, and the variety of surgical procedures,” explains Dr. Wahlquist. “Spine diagnosis involves a unique approach to looking at every single problem. You have to rule out so many different possibilities. Whenever a patient reports radiating pain through the groin or leg, they’ve given me 25 different diagnoses to start to think about. Now I get to start asking questions. That sort of puzzle-solving is incredibly engaging.”
Dr. Wahlquist discusses his favorite aspect of his practice
“Often, I see patients on their worst day,” he reflects. “Pain brings patients into my office, and nerve pain is a uniquely debilitating pain. Lots of people have experienced it for brief moments. The idea that someone is enduring months of terrible pain is pretty horrifying. My practice gives me the tools to address and treat this debilitating pain. It is so gratifying to see my patients return to the activities they love, and to the lifestyle and people that are important to them. That’s what gets me up and going every morning.”
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