One of the reasons I never tire of making this podcast is that each conversation brings with it a sense of surprise, an encounter with the unexpected. When I heard about Q Hammouri and the advocacy group they founded, Pride Ortho, I was eager to hear about their efforts to break the taboo of queerness in the straight, male-dominated field of orthopedics and to hear Q’s own story. Although we were able to speak at length about that advocacy work and the field of orthopedics, our conversation took us in many other directions, about the nature of identity, the fundamentals of medical thinking, and the ways something as simple as looking and seeing can transform our relationship to the world.
Q Hammouri is a pediatric orthopedist and spine surgeon. They are also an artist, immigrant, proud American, Buddhist, Muslim, Arab, and non-binary. They obtained their medical degree at the University of Jordan and immigrated to the US to pursue further medical training. They received their orthopaedic training at Yale, then completed a fellowship in spine surgery at New York University and a fellowship in pediatric orthopaedics at Columbia University. In 2013, they joined Northwell health to found the Pediatric Orthopaedic Department at Staten Island University Hospital, where they practiced until recently, performing the first pediatric spinal surgeries in the New York City borough of Staten Island. Q is the founding president of Pride Ortho, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group in orthopedics, and sits on the Diversity task forces of Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America and Scoliosis Research Society. In 2021, they were chosen as an Atlantic Health fellow for Health Equity for their work on LGBTQ access and advocacy.
What struck me most about Q’s observations and experience is the way their identity, their many identities in fact, are woven into their professional self, and the way they are as a physician and surgeon. I couldn’t help but see a connection between their attention to detail, their focus on observation as a surgeon and as a visual artist, and their sensitivity to their own appearance, to the ways their patients may feel perceived, seen or not seen, because of their medical condition, their sexual and gender identity, or both. Far from making them a less focused or engaged professional, Q’s different pursuits reinforce their sense of purpose and their grounding in what remains – even in our high tech, hyperspecialized age – medicine’s essence: tending to the suffering of other human beings.
Q's art: Earl of Bushwick
The Whitest Specialty, by Usha Lee McFarling, Stat News, December 13, 2021
Recorded October 18, 2022
Music: Mr Smith
Art: Jeff Landman