Doctor Spotlight: Kristen L. Stupay
Dr. Kristen L. Stupay is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon, practicing in Concord, New London, and Laconia. Dr. Stupay is a graduate of Yale University and Tulane School of Medicine. Dr. Stupay completed her residency at Massachusetts General Hospital before fellowship in Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Surgery (Brigham & Women's Hospital, Boston, MA).
Q: When did you first know you wanted to become an orthopaedic surgeon?
A: I was 11 years old. I made the AAA PeeWee boys’ hockey team that year (I was the only girl on the team)…it was our first game of the season, my 2nd shift of the game, I got laid out at center ice. When I stood up, my left wrist was throbbing; I had a hard time holding my stick. I kept playing the game because I didn’t want all my new teammates to think I couldn’t handle the checking in boys’ hockey. A few days later my mom took me to see an orthopaedic surgeon, and during my visit with the surgeon, I got to see my wrist X-rays. My wrist was broken (bummer!), but seeing my own X-rays was the coolest thing ever! After that, I was hooked!
Q: What were some challenges you faced along the way?
A: As I’m sure many of the other surgeons in the group will say, becoming an orthopaedic surgeon (or any doctor for that matter) is a long and grueling road. There is so much to learn, and no matter how much you learn, there is always something you don’t know. You constantly are working too much and sleeping not enough. You have to forego social opportunities and the pursuit of other interests or hobbies because of the demanding study and work schedule. These challenges aren’t unique to me – all of us went through that! One thing I found particularly challenging for me was that throughout training I always had this feeling of “imposter’s syndrome,” which is a term used to describe the feeling that regardless of how qualified or competent you are objective, you always feel like you’re not good enough, not smart enough, or like you ‘snuck in’ – in other words, you feel like an imposter! This feeling has started to dissipate as I’ve gotten older and more experienced, but I think it will always be with me in some way.
Q: What makes your patient care approach unique?
A: I had many fantastic teachers during my training. Some of them were incredible at talking to patients. Others were less so. And when I was shadowing those ones, I often would stay behind in the room for an extra moment with the patient to go over some of the most important points in terms they could follow. Medicine has its own language, and as doctors, it’s easy to forget that people who come to see us don’t necessarily speak that language. It’s very important to me that my patients’ orthopaedic problems and our treatment plan for those problems are not just communicated to the patient, but understood by the patient, and that the person I am treating buys into the plan that we set out for them. I feel that when people understand why they are doing something, they are more likely to do it, and that increases the chances that I can help them get better.
Q: What made you decide to focus on foot and ankle surgery?
- The foot is very complex, very important and totally underappreciated. I love that I get to be the expert on this part of the body that perplexes many surgeons and that is SO essential to the life and function of all bipeds.
- I get to take care of all kinds of people, EVERYONE needs their feet. A patient in my clinic could be a 16-year-old who got hurt playing soccer, an 80-year-old who has heel pain from hiking, a 40-year-old person with a neurologic injury, or a 65-year-old with arthritis…and everyone in between. There is no ‘typical’ foot & ankle patient, and that keeps things interesting.
- Mentors. Foot & Ankle has the BEST people. Orthopaedic surgeons who choose to take care of feet tend to be humble, approachable, awesome people. It's just a fact :)
Q: What is the most common injury you see?
A: Ankle sprains and fractures.
Q: Can you walk us through a day in the life of Dr. Stupay?
A: I usually wake up a couple of hours before I need to be in the office in order to finish the work that I planned to finish the night before but inevitably fell asleep trying to do. I’ll make some coffee and meditate with the HeadSpace app, then sit at my computer and catch up on notes or do some reading about topics in foot & ankle. Some mornings if I have time I will sneak in a run, bike ride, or yoga before I go. Hop in the car for the drive; if I’m going to a satellite office that’s farther away, I’ll listen to The Daily podcast, or maybe just jam on my Spotify if I’m not in the mood to hear the news. Office or operating room for the day. Home to take my dog for a walk in the woods and to split a tasty beer with my fiancé. Dinner. Maybe a TV show. Then to my desk to try to finish any remaining work. I’ll inevitably get sleepy trying to do it and resolve to finish it in the morning!
Q: What are you most proud of in your career to this point?
A: Hm. That’s a tough question! I don’t know that I have a great answer…but here's one story: I took ortho trauma call at a major hospital in Boston during my fellowship year. There was one weekend when I was the on-call orthopaedic surgeon and a patient who had been in a car accident came in with very severe breaks of the two bones in their forearm. In addition to being broken, the bones had been pushed out of the skin, which made it necessary that I treat the injury urgently. It was a very challenging fracture as both bones were in many small pieces, and since foot & ankle is my sub-specialty, the forearm felt a little intimidating as I was a bit out of practice on operating in the upper extremity. But, as an orthopaedic surgeon, I have completed training in not just foot and ankle, but in all bones/joints, and knew that if I prepared well I could do a great job for this patient. So, I prepared thoroughly, had several surgical backup plans ready to go, and ultimately the case went as well as I could have hoped for. The patient ended up healing and doing great. I was so thrilled that I was able to do right by this patient and to see them get back to their life after this bad injury.
Fill in the Blanks
- If I were not a doctor, I would be a Craft beer taster. That’s a job, right?
- My biggest pet peeve is seeing people throw trash out of their car windows. Why would you do that?!
- The #1 song on my all-time playlist is hard to say…basically anything I can run or bike or dance to you’ll find on my playlist.
- One little-known fact about me is I played hockey at Yale University.
- I can't choose one, but my favorite food is ice cream, cheese, sourdough bread with olive oil, and chips and salsa.