October 19, 2021

Journey Comes Full Circle for Two UAMS Orthopaedic Surgery Residents

By Jennifer Gurley

While no two medical students’ journeys to a career in orthopaedic surgery are alike, both are certain to wonder at some point along the way how that path will unfold and where it will ultimately take them.  For two orthopaedic surgery residents at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), that journey will bring them right where they want to be – home.

Kasa Cooper, M.D. and Sophie Hollenberg, M.D., two of the four orthopaedic surgery residents graduating next May, are returning to UAMS in 2023 —this time as members of the faculty—to begin their careers as fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeons in the College of Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Cooper and Hollenberg, both natives of Arkansas, developed an interest in orthopaedics early during their medical school training at UAMS.  Cooper was first introduced to Lowry Barnes, M.D., Chair of the UAMS Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, while shadowing him during her second year of medical school and participating in an orthopaedic research project with residents. For Hollenberg, it was attending a lecture given by Theresa Wyrick, M.D., Vice Chair of the department, which inspired her to pursue orthopaedic hand surgery as a subspecialty.

In 2017, both Cooper and Hollenberg matched into the UAMS Orthopaedic Surgery Residency Program, which accepts just five new residents each year from a pool of over 600 applicants from across the country.

“I chose UAMS because I knew I would experience excellent training in an environment that would push me to be my best,” Cooper said, “and my training has been just as challenging, rewarding, and engaging as I could have hoped.”

As interns, the two quickly developed a friendship that would continue to grow over the next four years. Now, as they finish up their final year of residency training and prepare for the next leg of their journey, Cooper and Hollenberg look forward to returning to UAMS to begin their careers in academic medicine.

“We are really excited for our future at UAMS,” Hollenberg said. “We have learned so much training as residents together and look forward to working alongside each other as staff members, and with future orthopaedic residents.”

Sophie and Kasa OR

Sophie Hollenberg, M.D. and Kasa Cooper, M.D. in the operating room during residency training

After graduation, both will head to different cities to further their training in specialized orthopaedic fellowship programs.  Cooper will complete a one-year Orthopaedic Trauma Fellowship at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, and Hollenberg will spend a year in Salt Lake City to complete a Hand Surgery Fellowship at the University of Utah Health.

When Kasa Cooper, M.D. and Sophie Hollenberg, M.D. make their return home in 2023 as faculty in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, they will have the opportunity to teach and mentor future students and residents, passing along their accrued knowledge and skills to the next generation of highly talented orthopaedic surgeons whose journey brought them to UAMS.