Dear Doctor: Maggie Cadet

The rheumatologist and arthritis education advocate with a sweet tooth

We met Dr. Maggie Cadet at her office at the Spine & Pain Institute of New York, just steps away from beautiful Central Park (yup, we’re jealous too). As a rheumatologist, she treats everything from sports injuries to autoimmune disease and is actively involved in raising awareness about arthritis. Read on for why she believes so strongly in the power of communication and to hear once and for all if you need to give up that knuckle cracking habit.

I love my field because there are so many different parts of rheumatology that allow me to use different parts of my brain. On a typical day, I might see anyone from runner with a knee injury to a woman who is losing her hair and is struggling with an autoimmune disease. I enjoy solving these puzzles. The variety of the field — from joint health, to osteoporosis, to sports medicine, to autoimmune — is what keeps what I do exciting.

On Communication

Communication is key in defining the doctor patient relationship these days, especially given there is so much medical jargon and there is increased pressure to move along with visits.

I try to think, “What if my mom was coming to me? What would she understand and how would she want to be taken care of?” I always keep this in mind.

Everyone comes in with a different goal or agenda. I always let patients ask questions first. I try to explain it in layman’s terms. You have to break it down without sounding condescending. Otherwise, no one benefits. Communication is the foundation of everything we do. Not just in medical relationships, but in all relationships. I keep all this in mind because it does make a difference in adherence.

It’s no different than going on date or being friends with someone; you really want to connect with them.

I feel I’ve been successful in my career because I make sure to communicate and engage with my patients. This also helps make visits more efficient for both the patient and for me. Of course you always want to be professional, but I think patients want someone who is relatable as well.

On Advocacy

I started working with the Arthritis Foundation over seven years ago. A lot of patients think arthritis is something that happens to older people, but the reality is that it can affect anyone.

While it’s great that there is so much awareness and research about heart disease and cancer, arthritis affects more people on a daily basis and can be debilitating. I felt that people need to know that this doesn’t just affect older people, it can affect young people too, even babies and that autoimmune diseases affect lots of young females especially.

I went to DC a few years ago to talk to senators about getting more funds for research and medications and increasing appropriations to the NIH. Now I’m trying to get involved more with local organizations, for example, by giving talks.

On Healthy Lifestyle

To be honest, sometimes you tell patients things and it can be hard to practice what you preach. I’m a mom and have a busy lifestyle, but I do my best!

I grew up as a competitive figure skater, so I’ve been used to getting up super early every day. I still get up between 4 and 5 am every morning. It’s my quiet time. I can get work done, no one is sending me texts, and it’s just my time to myself. I try to go to bed around 10pm.

As of late, I’ve been running a lot. I got into running in college and found it to be a great way to focus on a goal. I started running half marathons — not sure if I’ll do the full thing but we’ll see! I’m getting into yoga too. It’s one time I can disengage, plus it’s great to pay attention to your alignment and joints which is obviously something I’m thinking about a lot in my speciality! Kickboxing is the best workout, hands down! Dance classes too. I try to do things that are fun so they’re not a chore.

I try to eat healthy but I still have a sweet tooth; I love ice cream. I’m trying to teach my daughter healthy eating habits. Lately, I’m loving anything with avocado, beets, or brussels sprouts. I’m trying to be more adventurous!

One of the most common questions I get is whether knuckle cracking is bad for you. Although, many respected medical centers seem to believe that habitual joint cracking probably won’t raise the risk for arthritis, there may be reasons to avoid this habit. One study found that patients who were knuckle crackers had a weakened hand grip strength and possibly more swelling or inflammation in their hands compared to those individuals who didn’t crack those knuckles. It may be time to hide those knuckles and kick this habit!

Lightning Round

I love what I do because….I feel like I’m making a difference. You find a few patients that you really connect with and know that you’re helping them make meaningful changes.

More people should know about…the fact that joint disease can affect quality of life but with early treatment you can live a good life.

Ideally, I wish my patients would….slow down a little bit and find more time for sleep.

But realistically…even small changes like simple dietary changes and cutting back on smoking go such a long way.

Everyone needs some compassion sometimes.

I feel looked after when…I get a hug from my daughter.

Favorites

Book: Lean In

Female Role Models: Oprah Winfrey & Gayle King

NYC neighborhood: West Village

Restaurant: Tessa on the Upper West Side

Ideal day off: Any day with my daughter is perfect, but if I have a solo day to myself, I’d start with a run in Central Park, followed by a walk down to West Village or Tribeca to grab lunch with a good book. Then, a massage, a great dinner, and ending the day at a Broadway show with a friend (I’m still dying to see Hamilton!)

You can find Dr. Cadet at The Spine & Pain Institute of New York or on the web at maggiecadetmd.com

Know a great female doctor in NYC? We’d love to meet her. Drop us a line at deardoctor@capsulecares.com to introduce us!

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