As a physiatrist (a doctor who practices physical medicine and rehabilitation), Charles Odonkor, MD, is used to explaining his medical specialty.
“As humans, we evolved to be creatures of movement—you stop moving, you get sick. And sometimes chronic illness or pain will stop you in your tracks. That’s where a physiatrist steps in,” Dr. Odonkor says. “I use my toolbox, which includes medications, exercises, physical modalities, or interventions to help you get back to moving again and doing what you enjoy.”
Physiatry, he explains, goes beyond thinking about the body as just parts to looking at how the nerves, bones, muscles, and tendons are connected, with each one impacting function and movement. As someone who enjoys solving puzzles, he says, “I love to figure out how all the pieces fit together so I can come up with the right treatment plan to help my patients succeed with their health goals.”
Dr. Odonkor is passionate about providing exceptional patient care experience and designing value care processes that promote comprehensive functional restoration. He says that in tackling challenging conditions like complex regional pain syndrome, lumbar stenosis, and hip, spine, and joint pain, “one of the things I enjoy most is forming a therapeutic relationship with patients. That’s where the healing starts.”
“To me, pain is like a big black box. We are in the 21st century and there still is so much we don’t know about it,” he adds.
His research interests include wearable devices that involve biosensors that, for a patient with a foot injury, for example, track changes in range of motion, gait speed, physical activity, and other measures of function.
Dr. Odonkor is an assistant professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation at Yale School of Medicine.