It seemed a cinch that Michael Jablonski would follow his father and brother into the family urology practice, established in 1970.
"When I was 15, my dad called me in the middle of the week and asked if I wanted to watch him transplant a kidney," recalled Jablonski. "It was amazing to see somebody else's kidney come out of a cooler ... and watch it start making urine in somebody else. He let me go with him to tell the family that the patient had done well. Having a father who loves doctoring that much certainly rubs off."
Jablonski was doing rotations in his third year of medical school when he discovered the allure of orthopedics. During his first orthopedic rotation, he worked with "Doctor Pete" Indelicato, longtime team doctor for the Florida Gators. "I went on the field and the training room and loved the experience," said Jablonski.
During their residencies at the University of Florida (UF), Jablonski and his wife also cared for their infant son, Chris. "I don't know how we did it. We'd be on call every third day," he said. "I'd be on call; she'd be up all night with our son and then work all day. Then she'd be on call the next night. On the third night, we might see each other. You just kind of get through it."
After wrapping up eight years at UF, starting with undergraduate studies, Jablonski accepted an orthopedics fellowship with the famed James Andrews, MD, of Birmingham, Ala.
"We saw patients two days a week, did surgery two days a week, some 25 to 30 operations each day, and do research on the fifth day," he said. "Then, he'd fly to Alabama or Auburn football games on Saturday, and the Washington Redskins on Sunday. And start all over again on Monday."
Years later, Jablonski dialed Andrews about a complex case involving a 21-year-old cook with a shoulder problem. "I sent the patient to see Dr. Andrews and it turned out he didn't have insurance, so Dr. Andrews did the surgery to correct his shoulder - for free," he recalled. "Three months later, Dr. Andrews called me out of the blue. He was sitting at home wondering how that young patient was doing and wanted an update. He's just a great man."
The youngest of four children, Jablonski and his siblings live within 15 to 20 minutes of each other. With a physician father who practiced medicine in Orlando from 1970 to 2013 and mother who's a trained nurse, it's little surprise the whole family is centered around medicine, and that his siblings married fellow practitioners. His older sister, Sharon, earned a master's degree in nursing before attending law school. His other sister, Susan, was trained as a nurse, and married Nick Capone, MD, an anesthesiologist. His urologist brother is married to a physician; Jablonski's wife is an internist.
"It's helpful having a family that understands how stressful our work can be," he said. "When patients have outcomes that aren't as good as you'd like, everyone can commiserate."
His son, Chris, now 20, is in his second year at UF and on track to become an orthopedic surgeon. "Our 17-year-old daughter, Nicole, talks about studying medicine. She's still figuring out what she'd like to do," said Jablonski.
A team doctor for the Orlando Magic and now University of Central Florida, Jablonski also volunteers to provide care for a special type of very high-level athletes: Orlando Ballet performers who are "unfortunately very poorly funded," he said.
"What they put their bodies through is as rigorous as any football, basketball or hockey players," he said. "They don't have a season; it's year-round. When they're not dancing, they're teaching or rehearsing."
At Jewett Orthopaedic Clinic, Jablonski is on his third year as president of the practice. "We've done some amazing things and we're growing the right way," he said. "A couple of years ago, West Orange Orthopaedics joined us. We formed a group called OrthoSouth, which combined our group with other large orthopedic groups."
Jablonski prizes his long-term relationships with patients. "To have the ability to fix their problems, walk them through rehabilitation, and get them back on the playing field is incredible," he said. "Sometimes, it takes a full year. For a college athlete, that's a long time. We develop a tremendous bond."
When he's not practicing medicine, Jablonski, 6-foot-3, plays in a YMCA basketball league, golfs on a regular basis, and spearfishes with his brother. "Our dad would go fishing quite a bit," he said, "so we try to stay outdoors as much as possible."