Orthopedic surgeon Edward Yang won’t tell you he has transformed lives, but there are plenty of people who will.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Orthopedic surgeon Edward Yang won’t tell you he has transformed lives, but there are plenty of people who will. For one, a New York City firefighter who suffered a broken pelvis, a fractured hip, and massive internal injuries as a result of an explosion, who was saved by Yang. For another, a New York City auxiliary police officer, who broke both femurs in a motor scooter accident while vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, was flown by air ambulance to Elmhurst Hospital, where Yang and his trauma team waited. Today, the officer can run, bike, and swim as a result of the two 19-inch metal rods Yang inserted from his knees to his hip.
The testimonials are many for Yang, an Honorary Police Surgeon for the New York City Police Department. With characteristic humility, Yang says, “Professionally, the greatest satisfaction comes from helping people and having patients come back to tell me how much I’ve improved or changed their lives. It feels good inside. It’s why I went into this field.”
Having been appointed as the Chief of Orthopedics at Mount Sinai Queens last fall, Yang is also a Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, an active community lecturer, and the author of numerous articles in peer-reviewed publications.
Pursuing a career in medicine was never a question and the idea of becoming a surgeon neatly aligned with his practical nature. “You’ve got a problem, we fix it. Orthopedic surgeons are considered the carpenters. We saw, drill, and fuse bones from the neck to the toes,” remarked Yang, who has performed thousands of knee and hip replacements, as well as his share of shoulder operations.
Well before graduating summa cum laude from City College’s accelerated medical program and going on to N.Y.U.’s School of Medicine and a residency at N.Y.U.’s Hospital for Joint Diseases, Yang grew up in Queens and then Co-op City in the Bronx. He and his family moved to Rye 17 years ago. Although he considers himself a New Yorker, he was born in Texas, where his grandparents were the first Chinese immigrants in San Antonio. In pursuit of the American dream, they hold the distinction of opening up a country store across from The Alamo.
Paying homage to his heritage, Yang opened a private practice in Chinatown 26 years ago, in addition to serving as Director of Orthopedic Surgery at Elmhurst and Queens Hospitals.
“Chinese people don’t like to take weekdays off from work, so I’ve always worked there on either Saturdays or Sundays,” said Yang, who treats 30 to 40 patients every weekend.
It was his wife Corinne who suggested he fill a void in Chinatown, where there were no orthopedists at the time. Not speaking either Mandarin or Cantonese, he hired her cousin as an interpreter. “I had her learn all the medical terms in Chinese,” he said.
Yang met his future wife on a fateful Thanksgiving Day in 1985. The third-year resident was required to work a second consecutive 24-hour shift after a colleague failed to show up. Corinne, a nurse at Beth Israel Medical Center at the time, happened to be at the Hospital for Joint Diseases having lunch. He fondly recalls seeing her in the cafeteria and having a junior resident egg him on. They were married two years later and have four children: Danielle, Jasmine, Christopher, Joseph.
Both of their sons benefited from their father’s Boy Scout experience back in the Bronx. “When each of them became a Cub Scout, I felt it would be a positive bonding experience, so I became involved,” said Yang, who became a den leader before long, accompanying the boys on one- or two-week camping trips most summers. He took Christopher from Cubs all the way to Eagle Scout, and started the pack up again when Joseph was in kindergarten. “We started small and now we’re about 50 kids strong,” he noted. “It’s great to get them away from the electronics, no TV, no Game Boys.”
Dr. Yang is currently also committed to Operation Walk USA, a medical humanitarian organization that provides free hip or knee replacement surgeries for U.S. citizens, who could not otherwise afford it. He is responsible for the entire program, from locating a patient to enlisting the complimentary services of a hospital and anesthesiologist, as well as product donations from implant manufacturers.
“It’s a coordinated effort to help change an individual’s life forever,” he said.
When he’s not with patients or with his family, the indomitable Dr. Yang practices karate at the Rye YMCA. Having started lessons about five years ago, he is currently a brown belt and on his way to black. He also likes to squeeze in bowling or a round of golf. “I love Rye Golf Club,” he mentioned. “One gets to meet so many members of the community.”
As far as the ever-changing medical landscape, Yang is on the fence about an emerging trend that converts hospitals into hospital systems. What frustrates him in the patient care realm is the bureaucracy, notably the inordinate amount of time spent on acquiring pre-authorizations for everything including prescriptions.
“Why question a doctor with good training, solid ethics, and an excellent track record about prescribing an M.R.I?” he pondered.