Orthopedic Surgeon Dives Into Both of His Passions

Ed Rabinowitz

Hard work never hurt anyone. It’s an age-old expression, and one that Khurram Pervaiz’s father took to heart.

Hard work never hurt anyone. It’s an age-old expression, and one that Khurram Pervaiz’s father took to heart.

Pervaiz, MD, a shoulder and elbow surgeon with The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics in Maryland, grew up in a successful family. Both of his parents are physicians, and his father expected nothing less than 100% in anything Pervaiz did.

“He pushed me pretty hard,” Pervaiz recalls. “That’s the way it is in my family. There was definitely some pressure. But if he hadn’t pushed me hard, I’m not sure I would have been able to succeed the way I did.”

Perrvaiz’s interest in biology led him to follow in his parents’ footsteps, but it was his love for manual tasks that led him to orthopedics.

“I loved taking things apart, like toys and stuff, and putting them together,” he says. “And as I was growing up I developed an interest in model airplanes. I liked building things, and that led me to realize I needed to do something that involved working with my hands. And I was fortunate in that I was able to translate that into medicine.”

Yet he still finds the time to lead a very interesting lifestyle away from medicine.

A second passion

Pervaiz was raised in the era of the Jaws series of films, and admits that watching them brought about an intense fear of the ocean. Then in 1999, while traveling with some friends, he was encouraged to try ocean diving since he was already a big fan of snorkeling.

“So I got scuba certified, went into the water, and saw some really big sharks and other animals,” Pervaiz says. “Not only was I not afraid of them, I actually enjoyed it.”

That started a love affair with the ocean. Pervaiz calls diving his “passion outside of orthopedics,” and says for a busy surgeon it’s an incredible outlet that enables him to relax.

“It also makes you realize how small you are being out in the open water and being out in nature, especially as a diver,” Pervaiz says. “You realize how minute you are in the big scheme of things; that the world and the Earth is so amazing, and it doesn't really revolve around us.”

Pervaiz says that too often we tend to focus on ourselves, and feel as though we’re the center of the world—which, of course, we’re not. As a diver, he’s been able to travel the world and experience different cultures, which has opened his eyes to a world he never knew existed.

And then there’s the life he’s encountered below the surface—the interaction with the animals that Pervaiz says is the best part of diving.

“I absolutely enjoy being in the water, just sitting there and photographing or videotaping,” he explains. “I’ve seen some really big things, like humpback whales and all sorts of sharks, as well as little things like shrimp. You just sit there and admire them. I wish everybody could experience it at least once in their lives.

Certification and rescue

Pervaiz has also taken the time to become a certified rescue scuba diver through the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. The course work taught him what to do during a water emergency.

“As a physician, I obviously have the upper hand because I know what to do on land,” he explains. “But as a rescue diver, I now know what to do in the water. But it also taught me how to be a safer diver, and to recognize emergencies before they happen. Many divers who get into scuba become certified for those reasons.”

Fortunately, Pervaiz has never had to put his full arsenal of skills to use, but there have been a few situations where the potential was there. For example, he recalls a night dive in the Bahamas about 18 months ago—just Pervaiz and another diver alone in the water around 10 p.m. And they got separated.

“You’re out in the ocean in the middle of the night, so that makes your heart beat a little faster,” Pervaiz says. “But I found him, and then we found the boat.”

One other time, also in the Bahamas, Pervaiz was diving and got stuck in a swim through, but he was able to extricate himself with no issues.

“Being an experienced diver certainly helps with unpredictable situations in the water,” he says. “Of course, you know, the hope in all of this is to try to take steps to minimize anything that will land you in trouble.”

Rewarding life

Pervaiz says that, hands down, the most rewarding aspect of his career is the pleasure he derives from seeing the outcome with a patient he’s helped. He says it’s a feeling that’s hard to replicate.

“And the pleasure I get out of it is more amplified when it’s a much more challenging injury,” he acknowledges.

In his work, Pervaiz focuses on a variety of upper extremity conditions, including hand, wrist, and elbow replacements, athletic injuries, nerve, and tendon surgery, and care of complex trauma and fractures. He’s fellowship trained in hand and upper extremity surgery, as well as shoulder and elbow surgery. And there are times when he sees patients who’ve had previous surgeries and have been having pain or discomfort for years.

“They come to you, and they’ve tried so many different things, but sometimes they’re running out of hope,” Pervaiz says. “And the best part of this job is giving those patients their life back.”

Patients, he says, will frequently tell him that they once again have the full use of their arm, or a shoulder—and that he’s the one who did that for them.

“That keeps you going,” Pervaiz says. “And I love that about my job.”