Growing up, Gregory Kolovich, MD didn’t want to be a doctor, in fact, he wanted to be an engineer. But after beginning undergraduate classes at Georgia Tech University in Atlanta, he decided to change course.
Now, he’s an orthopedic surgeon with Optim Orthopedics specializing in hand, wrist and elbow. Since joining the healthcare network more than three years ago, Kolovich has built a strong reputation as one of the most skilled hand specialists in our region.
“I originally wanted to work for NASA like a lot of young kids,” he said with a laugh.
“But while I was in school to make extra money for rent, I started to work for an organ and tissue procurement company. That’s how I started getting interested in anatomy, dissection, and surgery.”
After that experience, Kolovich decided to pivot and started pre-med classes. Though he graduated with a degree in engineering, he was set on going to medical school.
Kolovich completed his required courses and tests, then began graduate school at The Ohio State University. While he knew he wanted to be in the surgical realm, he was unsure of his area of focus. An encounter with the chair of the school’s orthopedic program changed everything.
“I met with her and she looked at me and said, ‘Greg, you’re an orthopedic surgeon, trust me,’” he recalled. Turns out, she was right. Kolovich started down the orthopedic path and has never looked back. “I was thinking about doing facial or plastic surgery,” he said.
“I’m so glad I didn’t. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
Kolovich completed his residency at Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University, focusing heavily on hand and microsurgery under the tutelage of a mentor, Michael Ruff, MD. He had an immeasurable impact on the young surgeon’s skills and career.
“Dr. Ruff was a mentor to me and he is one of those guys that can do anything,” he said. “He’s a ‘doctor’s doctor.’ I really learned a lot and liked the versatility of microsurgery.”
Kolovich went on to complete a Harvard University fellowship for additional specialty training, studying extensively and working tireless rotations at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“I was on call every third day and basically lived at the hospital,” he said. “It’s an extremely intense year and you’re completely focused on learning all you can. I was able to perform thousands of surgeries.”
All of that experience would play an important role in his future success. After completing training, Kolovich started looking at available jobs. While he briefly considered academia, he opted for work in private practice.
“I wanted to build my practice and have more autonomy,” he said. “It fit my personality better. My wife is from Georgia, so that’s where I began looking.”
That’s how he connected with Optim Healthcare, a collaboration between Optim Orthopedics and the physician-owned Optim Medical Center-Tattnall, which offers a number of specializations including orthopedics, spine care, diagnostic, and therapeutic care.
The doctors there offer top quality care in a collaborative atmosphere, which allows them to best serve their patients.
Kolovich decided to join Optim Orthopedics based in Savannah, but also working out of the Brunswick clinic. He specializes in treatment of fractures, carpal tunnel, trigger finger, and traumas. Kolovich also branches out to treat other upper extremities, as well.
“What I like about Optim is that you have great surgeons who really care about their patients,” he said.
“They’re a very talented group, always striving to use new technology and be on the leading edge of orthopedics. It’s an opportunity for me to bring a new skill set to the table with microsurgery.”
While Kolovich offers the latest in cutting edge surgical techniques, he first explores all non-surgical options – from physical therapy to regenerative medicine including stem cell injections.
“I actually end up spending more time talking people out of surgery,” he said with a laugh. “Unless there’s something glaring like an obvious displacement or fracture, I want to explore all treatment options before thinking about surgery. I trained in China so I have experience with traditional Chinese acupuncture and cupping. All these applications that are thousands of years old can be really effective for patients today.”
From an article in The Brunswick News by Lindsey Adkison.