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Meet Our 2023 Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery Fellow, Mike Firtha, M.D.

Meet our 2023 Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery Fellow, Mike Firtha, M.D.

The Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery Fellowship at Shriners Children's Northern California and UC Davis Children's Hospital offers an in-depth, hands-on exposure to all aspects of pediatric orthopedics across both high-volume centers. The fellow closely mentored by pediatric orthopedic surgery staff. A flexible schedule allows for dividing time between complex elective pediatric orthopedics and spine surgery at Shriners Children's Northern California, and elective and urgent pediatric orthopedics at UC Davis Children's Hospital and its Level I Trauma Center.
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Mike Vertha: Hello, my name is Mike Vertha. I'm the current pediatric orthopedic surgery fellow at the UC Davis and Shriners fellowship program. I chose this fellowship because I thought this would be a great place to train and get the full breadth of orthopedic knowledge to help me in my future as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, and it's been everything that I've wanted and more.

So one of the big highlights of this program has been the morning educational conferences. So we have structured lectures in the mornings, and then we also have pre and post-op conference that I've found to be just a really great learning environment. It's very collaborative, it's very educational, and you really get to learn about the thought process from true experts in the field and just hear how they approach complex care for patients.

So I think in a lot of ways it's really helping prepare me for my future. One big advantage is the lifelong mentorship that I think I'm going to receive from here. I'm really developing relationships and getting to work alongside people that I know I'm going to be able to reach out to in the future and really will be able to help me in the future.

One big thing that I think has been an advantage of this fellowship is the opportunity to do junior level attending call the second half of the year. So that has allowed me to really get an intro into what next year's going to be like when I'm on my own, but still having that safety net of having resources to, I can send a text message or call an attending and get feedback on my plan and things like that. So it's a good experience to be able to get to experience what it's going to be like next year, and I think that's going to be really important for moving on as an attending next year.

So I moved to Sacramento with my wife and my two girls who are two and four years old, and we've absolutely loved Sacramento. Sacramento as a city is incredible in that there's great parks, good schools, there's great food and lots of things to do around the city. But what we've really enjoyed is the opportunity to take weekend trips to pretty much anywhere you'd want to go. You have wine country nearby, there's great opportunities for skiing. You have Tahoe. And then there's the Bay Area and everything that's associated with that. You can go to the beach in Monterey, and everything's just a short drive away for a great weekend trip, so we love that.

So one thing for fellowship applicants to think about, I think, is to remember that this is your last opportunity to get a formal educational environment, and it's really good to be at a place where you're going to have full range to any cases that you want to see. One of the benefits of this program is that I think being the only fellow in a really large orthopedic department allows you to pretty much be involved in any case that you want to be involved in. You don't have to fight any other fellows for cases. You don't have to be told where to go. You get full range on whatever you want to see, and I think that's important during a fellowship.

My favorite memory. At the end of the year, it's always kind of a nice time to reflect on the year, and I've had the opportunity to hang out with Dr. Leshkar and Dr. Kalkarney in their homes, and my wife and daughters have went over to their house and gotten to spend time with them and their families. It's just great to develop full relationships where these are people that have been teaching me over this past year, but now I get to continue to foster these relationships and have them to continue to learn from in the future.

I guess just thank you for the opportunity to be a fellow here. It's been an incredible experience. I really am grateful for the opportunity to be here. The fellowship has definitely been everything that I hoped for and more, and I just feel really lucky to get the opportunity to train here.

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