Slice of Life: Orthopedic surgeon takes nontraditional path to medicine

Dr. Neal Lintecum, an orthopedic surgeon for OrthoKansas P.A., initially studied mechanical engineering.

Many hands and new joints across the U.S. and Europe owe newfound mobility to the healing hands of internationally trained orthopedic surgeon Neal Lintecum, who took a nontraditional road into medicine.

Born in Kansas City, Mo., where his father was an architect and his mother a teacher, Lintecum loved playing outside, visiting his grandparents’ farms and building model airplanes.

“It taught me dexterity and precision,” he says. “My bedroom was totally covered with World War II model airplanes.”

Passion for planes gave way to sports and girls at junior high. Lintecum graduated from Shawnee Mission East High School in 1981 and enrolled at Stanford University to do mechanical engineering based on his strengths, and science and math interests. He was first exposed to orthopedics in his junior year when he became involved with bioengineering research.

Lintecum graduated from Stanford in 1986 with honors in mechanical engineering and enrolled at Kansas University School of Medicine.

“During my first year I shadowed an orthopedic surgeon,” he says. “When he was gone a week, I worked with his partner, hand surgeon Bill Benson (founding member of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand). I ended up working with him full-time that summer and decided to do hand surgery.”

He graduated from medical school in 1990, did a summer externship in his mother’s native Sweden, a five-year orthopedic internship and surgery residency at the University of Arkansas, then completed two fellowships in hand and upper extremity surgery — one at the University of San Francisco, the other at Lindenhofspital, Bern, Switzerland.

“In Bern I worked with Diego Fernandez, one of the most amazing individuals I’ve ever met,” he says.

Lintecum worked at Baptist Hospital, Kansas City (where he was born) from 1996 to 1998 and moved to Lawrence in 1998 when offered a partnership with OrthoKansas P.A. In 2001 he married his wife, Julie, and is the proud dad of two children.

Wanting to show his kids the importance of giving back to the community, Lintecum recently spent a week volunteering at a Navajo reservation in Chinle, Ariz., performing all types of hand surgeries.

“We’re familiar with Native Americans because of our connections with Haskell, but no matter what we see or read, you have to live among people to truly appreciate their lives,” he says. “I was shocked by the level of poverty I witnessed at the reservation and was humbled by people’s courage. I learned so much about life and received more than I gave.”

Lintecum enjoys his medical work and loves living in Lawrence.

“With orthopedic surgery you get to work with people of all ages, and I enjoy the variety from young to old,” he says. “Everyone has a story, and I get to hear a lot of them.

“I have great colleagues and having experienced many medical groups throughout my life I know I’m lucky to be part of such a good group of people across the board,” LIntecum says. “Lawrence’s medical community is well-trained, patient-centered and friendly.”