Tell me more about you?
My name is Kirk Whetstone MD. In my free time I enjoy traveling, gardening, board games, cooking, hiking, kayaking, skiing, college football, and tennis. I also play on several intramural sports teams. I love staying active and try to keep myself moving as much as possible. My husband and I have a dog and enjoy taking her with us while we explore Portland.
What is a Physical Medicine and Rehab doctor?
Physical Medicine and Rehab is a MD specialty just like pediatrics or cardiology. It is often referred to by the abbreviation PM&R or physiatry. I spent 5 years training (beyond medical school) to become this type of specialist. The focus of my practice is the management of non-surgical orthopedic spine and joint issues. For example: back pain, neck pain, knee arthritis, tendon wear and tear, sports injuries. The basis of my specialty is to restore function and to improve quality of life. This means something different to a 20-year-old athlete, versus a 50-year-old weekend warrior, versus an 80-year-old who wants to be able to play with a grandchild at the park. I enjoy working with all these patients and set individualized goals for them. We typically provide treatments like exercise therapy, injections/procedures, medications, and may direct you to other trusted providers as well like massage therapy, physical therapy etc.
Tell me more about your training and background?
I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. I went to undergraduate in Columbus and then completed medical school at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. I completed specialty training in Physical Medicine and Rehab at The University of Washington in Seattle. Lastly, I did advanced Fellowship training in Interventional Spine and Joint procedures also at The University of Washington. I am double board certified in PM&R and Interventional Pain Medicine.
What excites you about the medical field?
I am excited to have a small private practice where I can practice the way I would want my family and friends to be treated. I enjoy spending time teaching and helping patients understand their diagnosis. I also really believe in the value and power of regenerative (orthobiologic) medicine. Many of the traditional tools that we have used in spine, joint, and pain medicine really are not effective in every situation. It is exciting to have cutting edge tools available for my patients.
What is your care philosophy?
My top two jobs are to teach my patients and to give the correct diagnosis. My whole goal is to help patients understand the cause of their symptoms and then teach them about the problem and the options available. On each initial visit, I do a thorough physical examination and review of records and imaging. I will order additional imaging or complete any tests or images that are needed. Then I will sit down with the patient and discuss the diagnosis and use pictures or plastic anatomy models and teach them about what is going on. Then we can have an honest and transparent discussion about the “A to Z options.” My goal is to help guide patients through the process. My belief is that decision making should be a joint effort between the physician and the patient. I believe in patient engagement, and I often will give additional resources or direct the patient to trusted online websites with accurate medical information.
How long have you been a Spine and Joint physician?
I have been in the field since 2010 and practicing as a specialist in spine and joint since 2014. I have helped thousands of patients and performed thousands of advanced procedures.
What attracted you to Regenerative Medicine and what areas do you treat?
Regenerative Medicine (sometimes also referred to as Orthobiologic Medicine) is using the patient’s cell elements, cells, or growth factors which can have a healing or pain-relieving effect. This is exciting, groundbreaking, and less invasive medicine which is what led me to offer this option to patients. I can treat most spine, joint, and tendon issues with regenerative medicine. Many people can benefit, but Regenerative Medicine is not one size fits all and an appointment/consult is needed to determine a plan of care.
Why should patients consider Regenerative (Orthobiologic) Medicine before surgery? What would you say to people who are skeptical about Regenerative Medicine?
It is important to understand that surgery definitely has a role for some patients. I am honest when I feel that a surgery consult is needed. I network with spine and joint surgeons and will always do my best to ensure each patient is referred to an excellent surgeon. However, many people with spine, joint, and tendon issues do not need surgery, or may not want surgery for health or personal reasons. Many of these individuals would benefit from an appointment to discuss non-surgical treatments, and to see if Regenerative Medicine might be an option. Regarding skepticism, I would say that it is healthy to be initially skeptical about any procedure or surgery. It is my job to help answer questions and discuss honest risks and potential benefits for each procedure, and to ensure that any skepticism is relieved and addressed. I tell patients to view an office appointment with me as an “information gathering” session. Many times, patients want to go home and discuss options with family and friends before deciding. This is very normal. I would have these Regenerative Medicine treatments myself and have encouraged my family and friends who are good candidates to pursue them as well.
What led you to work with patients who have been injured in car accidents?
Throughout my career, I have worked with many patients who have had minor accidents ranging from something as common as a concussion, all the way up through severe injuries to their nervous systems. The common theme with all of them is that they are scared and frustrated, and want to get better, but are often stuck in a confusing medical system. I believe good communication, case management, and advocacy can help alleviate many of these issues. I also believe that most injured patients need an excellent team that involves more than just a physician. This team may include physical therapists, massage therapists, or speech therapists. If the patient is working with a lawyer, I also believe it is essential to make sure they are receiving timely communication.
What is your opinion on the patient-physician relationship?
I believe the characteristics of the patient physician relationship have changed over the last several decades. This is in no small part related to the internet, the invention of electronic medical records, and how we deliver care. Physicians used to be trained to be more paternalistic, but I think this is becoming outdated. My goal is to be a partner in patient care and joint decision making. I will try to meet patients where they are, and help them make informed decision regarding what is best for them, their lifestyle, and their financial situation.
How would you describe your communication style?
I would describe my communication style as thorough and honest. I believe communication involves active listening but also thorough explanations. I encourage patients to ask questions and express opinions. I try to answer questions in easy-to-understand language. Physicians sometimes slip into medical words, and I try my best to avoid this when able. I also think it is very important to get back to patients quickly about their healthcare be it test results or answering questions.
Who is your ideal patient? How would you describe them?
Any patient who wants to get better and be engaged. I often tell patients that recovering from injuries is a marathon not a sprint. I also tell patients that although we have lots of treatment options as part of modern medicine, we cannot cure everything. As we age, sometimes we are managing pain with the tools we have in our toolbox. We find the tools that work and then use them as they are needed. I want patients to be open minded regarding finding the tools that work for them.
Are you comfortable with me bringing a friend or family member with me to an appointment?
Yes, and I recommend it especially if the patient is trying to make decisions about procedures or reviewing imaging. It is helpful to have a 2nd set of ears available. I often also write a quick summary of the visit when the patient feels it would be helpful to convey information to spouse or loved ones. It is nice to be able to bring family, but a trusted friend is great too if the patient is ok with having medical conversations in front of them.”