This is a continuing series of interviews we do with our physicians here at SOA. Dr Ashot Kotcharian is a Board Certified/Fellowship Trained Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Physician with a specialty in Interventional Spine and Sports Medicine. Dr Kotcharian has a strong background in interventional therapies for spine disease, complex pain syndromes, peripheral joint disease, and sports injuries. He served a most distinguished career in medicine as Assistant Professor of PM&R at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Learn more about what motivates him and how he spends his time when not at work.
What inspired you to become a physician? What inspired me to become a physician is the legacy of my great grandfather. He was my namesake. Although I have no memory of him I grew up hearing so much about him. Before me he was the only physician in our family history. I grew up listening to stories of his work and all the good he did treating those who were ill. I knew early on that just like my namesake I too wanted to have a career that can result in good to others and help those who are ill. One of my younger sisters was born with epilepsy and has a learning disability. As a young boy I witnessed how much my parents cared for her. From city to city, hospital-to-hospital, my parents searched for the best medical treatment available. Seeing her go from one hospital to another, I wondered why nobody could help her become better. I watched my parent’s worried faces and how hard they tried to get answers and care for my sister. Once they were able to get her the care she needed and the doctors were able to get her seizures under better control the relief and joy it brought was immeasurable. This is what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be able to take away peoples pain, fear and confusion and give them hope and relief.
Why orthopedics? While on my journey through medical school and residency training what I found myself enjoying the most was anatomy and musculoskeletal medicine. I learned how crucial good understanding and knowledge of anatomy can be in diagnosing nerve injuries, ligament tears, or radiculopathies. I developed a greater interest in diagnosing and treating patients who presented with muscle and tendon injuries, repetitive stress injuries, as well as back and radicular pain to name a few.
What do you love most about your job? I love how in this field the convergence of good anatomical knowledge, physical exam skill, and history taking can often lead to diagnosis without a need for invasive tests. I get a satisfaction out of being able to arrive at the solution simply from what the patient told me and what I find on my physical exam. I get a satisfaction from knowing that I was able to treat disabling pain be it from back, muscle or tendon injury, without the need of invasive surgery.
What is your biggest challenge? Helping my patients through difficult diagnoses where treatment options are few and without a “cure” can definitely be challenging. I would also say that being able to convey the importance of daily exercise, stretching, as well as proper posture is another big one. While I have a lot of skills and tools with which to help stop pain, its what the patient is able to do on their own at home and in their daily life that can really keep the pain from coming back. If I weren’t an orthopedic physician I’d be either a martial art instructor or a university professor. Although, to be honest, this is a difficult question, because I can’t see myself doing anything else. I truly love what I do and I am very passionate about it.
Your proudest moment? My proudest moment is completing my fellowship training. As I looked back at my journey through medical school, residency, and fellowship I knew I was becoming the person I wanted to be and the person I wanted my sister and great-grandfather to be proud of.
Where is the most interesting place you’ve travelled? Why? It would have to be Rome. The layers and layers of ancient history, the architecture, the people, and the food were truly amazing.
Any hobbies? Activities? One of my biggest passions outside of medicine is martial arts, exercise, and mindfulness meditation. I have been a student of martial art since I was just a kid. Most of my studying and training has been in Taekwondo and I have earned a rank of 2nd degree black belt. I have also studied some techniques of hapkido, karate, kungfu, and Brazilian jujutsu while attending a mixed martial arts school. What I love most about martial arts is the respect, the discipline, the mindfulness, and the physical exercise.
What’s your next adventure? I don’t really know. I am pretty happy exploring the Gulf Coast for now.
Your guilty pleasure food? Oh gosh, too many probably. Hamburgers, Chinese food, fried chicken, pizza, oh now you’re making me hungry!