“I'm blessed that I can work everyday at something I love. My greatest rewards are from my patients. They come to me and they trust me and let me become almost part of their family.”
“WORLD-RENOWNED ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON”
As an undergraduate at Yale, Mary O'Connor loved science but was equally dedicated to helping others. "I wanted to find a way that I could use my gifts and also make a difference. I wanted to work with people and thought I could be a good doctor, which is how I got interested in medicine."
Now Associate Professor of Orthopedics and Chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Jacksonville's Mayo Clinic, O'Connor has fulfilled her early dream, forging a career as an internationally acclaimed orthopedic surgeon specializing in joint replacement, and bone and soft tissue tumor surgery. She is also known as a caring mentor to Mayo's surgery residents and fellows.
"One of the greatest rewards is the work I do with my patients," she noted. "I do two different types of surgery: knee and hip replacement, and soft tumor. Sometimes tumors can be difficult and then it's frustrating because you can't help as much as is needed.
"In joint replacement surgery you get to fix an obvious problem. You do a hip replacement and that can make a huge difference in the quality of a patient's life. You can do knee surgery and see a person walk again-the difference is almost immediate. I've always liked that."
Nominated as a Local Legend by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL-4), O'Connor began her career as a resident at the famed Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, followed by a fellowship in bone and soft tissue tumor surgery (orthopedic oncology), also at Mayo.
She was the first woman accepted into the Musculoskeletal Tumor Society in 1993, a specialty society of the American Association of Orthopedic Surgery devoted to the treatment of bone and soft tissue tumors. In 2005, she was the first woman to be elected president of the Society. She also was the first woman member of the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons, and chairs the Women's Health Issues Committee of the America Association of Orthopedic Surgery.
She serves on the boards of the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society (a support and networking group for women orthopedic surgeons), the Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons, the Florida Orthopedic Society and the Northeast Florida Orthopedic Society.
Widely published in her specialty, O'Connor has served as a guest editor of the Journal of Arthroplasty and the Florida Orthopedic Journal.
But it is her surgical skill and empathy for patients that make her a standout. In 2005 she received the Clinician of the Year award from the Mayo Clinic, given in recognition by her fellow physicians in Jacksonville. "That was a huge honor," she said. "To be recognized by your peers means a lot. I've been blessed and rewarded every day in my work. I try to give my patients the absolute best I can."
Despite her crowded schedule, O'Connor considers family and a balanced life to be most important to her. As for her greatest accomplishment? "That's easy," she smiled. "My three children!"
Appointed Associate Director of Education for Surgery and Surgical Subspecialties, Mayo Clinic of Medicine, Jacksonville
Appointed Associate Professor of Orthopedics, Mayo Clinic of Medicine
Chosen for Leadership Fellows Program, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery
Named "Clinician of the Year" by Mayo Clinic
Elected First Woman President of the Musculoskeletal Tumor Society
Appointed Chair, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, FL
Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Replacement Surgery and Orthopedic Oncology