MSU Department of Orthopedics: Providing inclusive, world-class care for every athlete


Clinical excellence is the name of the game for the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Orthopedics, which has provided world-class orthopedic care for athletes of every sport, level and age for over 30 years. Housed under the Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine and Human Medicine, the joint department serves as a renowned academic, research and clinical hub for the practice of orthopedics.

The department’s highly trained physicians, physician assistants and support staff deliver a range of musculoskeletal services, including prevention, osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), surgical and non-operative treatment, and rehabilitation, as well as referrals to other services, such as physical therapy.

“Athlete is a broad term, but we are inclusive in treating all of our community members and athletes,” said Jill Moschelli, M.D. “Our doors are open to all ages and abilities.”

Welcoming every definition of athlete

Whether it is a high-profile Division I athlete, a student on an intramural team, a performing arts student or a community member who works out on their own, the Department of Orthopedics delivers the same high-level care.

“We take care of people that move and want to continue to move,” said Jeffrey Kovan, D.O. “Everyone who wants to be active qualifies as an athlete and is welcome to our practice at any time.”

In addition to serving as the official medical providers for MSU student-athletes, the department has a longstanding commitment to community outreach. The team provides on-site pre-participation sports physicals and medical coverage at local high schools for sporting events. They also offer injury walk-in clinics for community members on Wednesdays at Playmakers and Saturdays (when schools are in session) at MSU Health Care Sports Medicine for community members.

A key goal of the program is to form meaningful, long-lasting relationships with patients. Being active is a lifelong endeavor and the relationships providers build with local athletes fosters a higher standard of care tailored to each individual’s unique needs, Micah Lissy, M.D., said.

Dr. Kovan reflected on treating a competitive downhill skier who was coming up on his 90th birthday. By building a foundation of trust and understanding with the patient about his personal goals in relation to leg weakness he was experiencing, the team was able to get him back on the slopes competing — a reminder that “no matter the biases our society holds, we all have our own goals and ambitions, and our job as orthopedists and primary care sports medicine physicians is to help people reach those.”

Treating the whole patient

Since its origination, the premise of the orthopedic program has been to provide the highest level of holistic, patient-centered care to all MSU athletes — and that still rings true today. With deep connections to the tenets of osteopathic medicine, the team approaches each health concern with a broader consideration of what may be causing or contributing to the problem.

“We take care of the entire athlete rather than just their isolated injury,” Dr. Kovan said. “Our physicians look at everything that plays into their physical health, including their mental health, sleep and nutrition.”

The orthopedic team considers each patient’s hobbies, occupation, lifestyle habits and social factors when developing a treatment plan, said Toufic Jildeh, M.D. “Every athlete gets a personalized approach, not just with the demands of their sport but also aligning with the demands of their life, like work and school.”

The Department of Orthopedics is comprised of skilled professionals from a unique blend of osteopathic and allopathic disciplines, as well as experiences from working with professional athletes around the country, including the USA Olympic Ski and Snowboard teams, the Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons. The physicians use that expertise to help Spartan athletes and community members return to doing what they love.

“One of the strengths of the program is that we’ve created a dynamic partnership between M.D. and D.O. professionals, and that balance benefits our patients,” said Dr. Kovan. “We all have a shared goal to see our patients as more than their injury and help them achieve their goals.”

Educating the next generation of orthopedic leaders

With faculty representation at many mid-Michigan health facilities, the Department of Orthopedics at MSU integrates undergraduate students, medical students, residents and fellows into the clinical practice. These learners receive one-on-one teaching, mentoring and shadowing opportunities.

“Clinically, the relationship between the department and students is symbiotic,” said Dr. Jildeh. “We work as a team to optimize patient care and bring our research from the lab bench to the bedside.”

MSUCOM students are also imperative to the department’s cutting-edge research productivity, said Dr. Jildeh. Dr. Moschelli also credits students for asking insightful questions, which may lead to bigger research queries, as well as contributing to the patient care experience.

The goal is to teach and motivate the next generation of orthopedic leaders: “It’s important for us to leverage the medical schools and university resources, especially for advancing orthopedic research,” said Dr. Jildeh. “We can answer questions at MSU that can’t be answered elsewhere, ranging from opioid alternatives to novel surgical techniques.”

The game plan

Looking into the future, the department will continue bringing top-notch care and novel techniques to local athletes and community members, said Dr. Jildeh.

“We are creating a destination for exceptional orthopedic care for mid-Michigan and beyond,” said Dr. Lissy. “We will continue getting athletes back in the game and doing what they love.”

To make an appointment with the Department of Orthopedics, visit or call (517) 884-6100.