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Jonathan Perlman, founder of Tradition Senior Living in Houston & Dallas, TX.

“It is inspiring to see the grace, strength and good nature with which some families deal with their challenges—and also to watch the patients overcome and excel to do great things.” 

Dr. Rathjen

“It is inspiring to see the grace, strength and good nature with which some families deal with their challenges—and also to watch the patients overcome and excel to do great things.” 

Dr. Rathjen

Karl Rathjen, M.D., wears so many hats that it’s hard for one to remember all of them. In addition to serving as the assistant chief of staff and pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Scottish Rite for Children, he is also the organization’s Foundation President and a Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. When asked about what really gets him up in the morning, however, he answers like a shot — the patients.

“I enjoy being with people,” said Dr. Rathjen, with his natural, upbeat enthusiasm. “And I really enjoy helping the patients — from the emergency room to a post-op clinic appointment to fitting a scoliosis back brace.” 

Most of his clinical time is spent caring for pediatric patients with spine deformities or hip, knee or foot conditions in children with neuromuscular or syndromic diagnoses. Take Emily, who has been a patient of
Dr. Rathjen’s since she was just over a year old and has had many surgeries to correct the extreme curvature of her spine. She loves time spent time outdoors, is at home on the golf course and currently studies in college to be a speech therapist — plus she has a straight back, thanks to the expert care from Dr. Rathjen.

Then there is the irrepressible Ashton. She grew up constantly wearing her back brace, even sleeping in it. Her back is also straight now — and she’s brace-free. She graduated from college with honors and now teaches dance.

To the parents, as well as to the young patients, Dr. Rathjen is a superhero. “We couldn’t have gotten through these difficult years without Dr. Rathjen’s caring encouragement all the way through — not to mention his medical talent,” said Laurie Wyatt, who is Ashton’s mother and my associate at The Tradition.

As Scottish Rite for Children is celebrating its 100th year, Dr. Rathjen brings into perspective all that this organization has meant to so many parents and their children. “For 92 of those 100 years, there was no charge for care and treatment at Scottish Rite,” said Dr. Rathjen. “Even today, everyone gets what they need here, regardless of their ability to pay.”

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“Everyone gets what they need here, regardless of their ability to pay.”

Dr. Rathjen

“Everyone gets what they need here, regardless of their ability to pay.”

Dr. Rathjen

The high level of medical services is evidenced not only by patient outcomes, but also by connections with other high-level medical institutions. Dr. Rathjen and all of the other Scottish Rite physicians hold faculty appointments at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Scottish Rite for Children’s fellowship in pediatric orthopedics is “the largest pediatric orthopedic fellowship in the country,” he says.

As part of the celebration for their 100-year anniversary, the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children Foundation has initiated the organization’s first-ever capital campaign: the Boundless Centennial Campaign. Their goal is to raise $100 million, and he says they already have garnered 100% support from the administrative and medical staff as well as the board of trustees.

So, doctor, head of the foundation, oh, and yes — assistant chief of staff! “This position uses my early engineering training (he has an undergraduate engineering degree from The University of Texas). I like to make things efficient,” he says. “This helps with the process, so you can then take better care of the patient.”

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Back to the patient. Always back to the patient — and their parents. 

He recalls two adolescent girls who didn’t know each other, both with neurologic conditions. “One had had surgery and got pneumonia. The other had a neurosurgical procedure,” said Dr. Rathjen. “With their blessing, I connected the two mothers. One was married to a minister, while the other was in the mission field. They shared a common faith, and I knew they could encourage each other.”

His respect for the parents is supreme. “There is never a week that goes by that I don’t encounter a family carrying a heavy burden,” he says. “I stop and think, ‘What was I so upset about this morning? I spilled my coffee?’”

“When most parents have a child, they think that child will grow up without additional problems. Many of my patients, however, can’t walk and might not leave home,” he says. “It is inspiring to see the grace, strength and good nature with which some families deal with their challenges—and also to watch the patients overcome and excel to do great things.” 

Said with such humility and sensitivity. But don’t forget, Dr. Rathjen — you are their superhero. 

Linda Faulkner Johnston—The Tradition

To make a donation to the Boundless Centennial Campaign, go to www.scottishriteforchildren.org/boundless

For more information, visit www.scottishriteforchildren.org

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