When the clinic manager led Justin Siebler, M.D., into the board room and 40 people started applauding him, he turned around and walked out.
Dr. Siebler didn't understand – and still doesn't -- why people would make a fuss over him. That day the orthopaedic trauma surgeon became the first-ever Spirit of Mission award winner for Alegent Creighton University Medical Center (CUMC). He thought the attention and kudos should go instead to the clinic staff, nurses and advanced practice clinicians who work with him. "I'm surprised," he said. "It's hard to imagine anybody making such a big deal over what I do."
Dr. Siebler ended up attending the award presentation, but reluctantly.
The praise for Dr. Siebler is anything but reluctant. This is how co-workers describe him:
- "I have witnessed him lead the change in the way care is delivered to the orthopaedic trauma population. He chooses to go above and beyond the duties of his job to assure the care we deliver is competent, complete and caring."
- "He takes the time to educate medical students, nursing students and residents on a daily basis in the hospital, clinic and classroom setting. He is a true educator."
- "Dr. Siebler makes every day go by quickly. He is efficent and friendly with his patients and he never lets a day go by where he doesn't thank me for doing my job."
- "Patients always tell me how refreshing it is to have a physician who doesn't rush them and who takes the time to discuss their plan. He cares more than any doctor I have ever worked with."
- "He is very intuitive to the needs of these patients and families that have recently experienced a minor or significant trauma."
In a patient satisfaction survey, one of his patients called Dr. Siebler "Dr. Awesome." To his chagrin, the name stuck. He said he just listens to his patients. "I may have a sense today that this patient needs a few extra minutes," he said. "I give them the time."
Dr. Siebler wanted to be a doctor "as far back as I can remember" and surgery was a good fit for him. He's married and has three children – two daughters ages 10 and 5 and a son, 8. He met his wife in college and said all they've ever known is the demanding schedule of a trauma surgeon. "Family is very important to me," he said. "My wife is very understanding and puts up with what I do but when it's my time off and I'm not at work, I'm really protective of that time."
When he wasn't in clinic or the CUMC operating room, he helped create a follow-up plan of care for patients who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder after a medical trauma. He helped the department create one of the first comprehensive fragility fracture programs in the country to identify high-risk individuals and to prevent future fractures. And he spearheaded Joint Commission certifications in orthopaedics. Under his leadership, CUMC achieved Joint Comission specialty certifications for orthopaedic hip and knee replacement and orthopaedic trauma – the second hospital in the world to achieve the certification.
Many trauma patients were emotional when they talked about him. Traci Wickham, whose pelvis was broken after a semi ran a red light and slammed into her car, teared up when she talked about Dr. Siebler. Jerry Lustgraaf, a Treynor, Iowa, tow-truck driver who was impaled on his truck after a car ran into him during a snowstorm, threatened to get Dr. Siebler's name tattooed on the leg the surgeon rebuilt. Dr. Siebler shrugged off the compliments, saying he was just doing his job.
"I'm most proud of the quality of care we're giving to our patients and quality of education we're giving our medical students and residents," Dr. Siebler said. "I'm very proud of that. I really enjoy doing that. The patients and academic medicine – that's why I'm here."