From the Drawing Board to the Operating Room
Meet Shriners Healthcare for Children — Florida Orthopaedic Surgeon Cheryl Lawing, M.D.
At Shriners Hospitals for Children locations, our pediatric care teams are led by some of the most innovative doctors in the world. They provide comprehensive medical, surgical and rehabilitative care to children with orthopaedic conditions, all regardless of the families’ ability to pay. Many attending physicians hold teaching appointments to local colleges and universities, aside from their own special areas of interest.
Shriners Healthcare for Children — Florida orthopaedic and spine surgeon Cheryl Lawing, M.D., is no different. She previously served as an instructor for the UNC Medical School Musculoskeletal Unit, and currently holds the title of assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of South Florida. After earning her degree from the Medical College of Georgia, she completed a residency in orthopaedic surgery at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a fellowship in pediatric orthopaedic surgery at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Her list of credentials also includes professional memberships to the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America, Scoliosis Research Society and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, to name a few.
Such a rich list of qualifications would make one think that Dr. Lawing always had her heart set on becoming a surgeon. However, medicine was not her first passion. Prior to pursuing her medical degree and putting on her white coat, Dr. Lawing considered a career in art.
From the drawing board to the operating room
During high school, Dr. Lawing was actively involved in soccer and suffered a string of knee injuries. Post-surgery, while she was off the field and recovering, she really focused her efforts on art.
“When I was unable to play sports, I was very fortunate to have an amazing high school teacher really push me and help develop my interest in art,” Dr. Lawing said. “Remarkably, his own interest in art began similarly – when he had football injuries that prevented him from playing sports.”
Once in college at the University of Georgia, Dr. Lawing continued to channel her creativity and majored in scientific illustration. It was not until she completed a summer study-abroad program focused on art that she realized she wanted to pick a career that would have more of a direct impact on people’s lives.
“While I loved art, I felt selfish pursuing this as a career,” Dr. Lawing said. “I appreciated how much the orthopaedic surgeon who had fixed my knees had helped me, and I decided to pursue medicine so I could hopefully have a similar ability to be able to help people.”
Connecting with kids, fulfilling her mission
Dr. Lawing joined the team of Shriners Healthcare for Children physicians here in Florida in 2016, and since then she has helped to provide hope and healing to many children. She is well known among patients not only for her medical expertise, but also for her kind demeanor and bedside manner. Always taking the extra time to ensure families feel informed about “next steps” in their child’s care plan, Dr. Lawing frequently pulls out a pen and paper to help better explain upcoming medical procedures or appointments.
“Art has helped my career in medicine in several ways,” Dr. Lawing said. “The obvious, of course, is my ability to draw out implants and surgical plans to help families to better understand what is next.”
More importantly though, Dr. Lawing credits her history with art for being able to fully comprehend the impact “her mark” makes on a blank canvas, knowing that there’s no going backwards from that mark once it’s made. As she explained, surgery can be daunting; making an incision is a very invasive and permanent thing to a child – but her art taught her the ability to confidently plan and proceed to make a mark.
“Just like the end product of a finished painting is so worthwhile, a completed surgery and the positive impact on a child’s life is incredibly satisfying.”
Showcasing her talents
Dr. Lawing’s artwork has been featured in several national exhibitions, including the United Nations in New York. In 2001 and 2008, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons hosted art exhibits featuring orthopaedics in art as part of their annual meeting, and Dr. Lawing was very excited to display paintings in the exhibit that featured her soccer gear and knee braces.
Included below is a series of artwork that currently hang in Dr. Lawing’s office, featuring “mixed media” collages of bones, knee braces and clubfoot shoes.
Not only do they serve as a reminder of where it all began, they also perfectly depict how the worlds of art and medicine blended for her, making her the amazing physician she is today.
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