Dr. Morty Eisenberg, a family physician and hospitalist at St. John’s Rehab for more than 35 years, always preferred the variety family medicine offered. “It’s personable, and there’s a whole spectrum of issues that one deals with,” he says. “I wasn’t interested in becoming a specialist in any one area until I ran into wound care.
Twenty-nine years into his career, this self-proclaimed non-academic chose to go back to school. “Here I’m in my mid-50s, [and] some colleagues are concerned they’re developing signs of early dementia, and I’m saying, ‘I can do this.’”
Dr. Eisenberg completed a master’s degree in wound care – one of only a few such programs in Canada – at the University of Toronto, where he is now the program’s co-director. “This is a branch of medicine that’s poorly understood by health professionals everywhere, and that has a huge impact on patient quality of life and our healthcare system. I felt I could really make a difference.”
People with chronic wounds – like pressure ulcers, venous leg ulcers or diabetic foot ulcers – frequently lose self-esteem. They may lose limbs, and, in the most severe cases, they can lose their lives. In many instances, this is preventable.
“For the average person with a wound, it doesn’t matter how you treat it, it’s going to heal. But for someone with a chronic wound, you need to know the cause,” he says. “A pressure ulcer won’t heal, no matter what fancy dressings you apply, if you don’t take the pressure off,” he says.
“A man came to me with a two-year-old leg wound that refused to heal despite regularly applying sophisticated dressings,” recalls Dr. Eisenberg. “He was at his wit’s end because he needed to have his knees replaced, and the orthopaedic surgeon refused to do the surgery – rightly so. After he was properly diagnosed with a venous ulcer, we arranged for home care to apply compression bandages, and in six weeks the wound closed. He was then able to undergo his knee surgery.”
Dr. Eisenberg also recounts wound specialists preventing diabetics from losing their legs, discovering six-year-old wounds that turned out to be cancer and helping people cope with wounds that aren’t healable. “We are making a difference,” he says. “Educating health professionals and patients about the prevention and management of wounds is now my passion.”