Top Doctors / Dr. Kevin Lanighan
A specialty that fits like a glove
Photo by kc kratt
DR. KEVIN LANIGHAN WAS VERY HAPPY at Northtowns Orthopedics, but the healthcare group’s recent merger with Excelsior Orthopaedics finds him expressing gratitude for being part of a larger, better-equipped and -staffed team, where he’s able to provide his brand of patient-centered care. That’s typical of this hand and upper extremity specialist, who exudes an attitude combining optimism with a healthy dose of reality.
Lanighan, a Western New York native, graduated from Niagara University then went on to medical school and residency at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Service as a United States Navy medical officer was formative; he also completed a fellowship at the Curtis National Hand Center in Baltimore, Maryland. He’s been practicing for over twenty years—early patients included Bills and Sabres players.
He grew up in Lockport, the son of well-educated parents—his father held a PhD in chemistry and his mother was a nurse—and did well in school. Early on, Lanighan realized that he was “blessed with some personal resources,” and knew that he wanted to make a contribution. “As a youth, I was involved in scouting; we did projects that involved caring for people,” he says. “I realized that I didn’t want to just sell something. I joined the Navy so I could pay for school. It’s pretty unique to say that you want to do a certain thing and actually end up doing it.”
Being in the Navy as a young doctor has made a deeper impression on him over the years. “I served two years aboard the USS Guadalcanal, a helicopter carrier,” he says. “I didn’t realize then how special it was to take care of those young men and women serving our country.”
Lanighan notes that through his excellent education at Johns Hopkins he was able to hone in on his specialty. “In orthopedics, you’re generally trying to restore healthy people to previous healthy function,” he says. “Hands have a meticulousness to them that requires specialization. It’s a perfect fit for my personality; for the past ten years or so, I’ve been very focused on things like carpal tunnel, thumb fractures, and arthritis.”
He generously acknowledges his staff. “My two excellent PAs have worked with me for fifteen and eleven years, and my amazing secretary has looked out for my patients for twenty years,” he said. “I feel fortunate to have this team of dedicated people.
“My career has different parts; I have to be a creative problem-solver, to figure out the best way to get from A to B. I also am a teacher and a counselor,” he says, noting that he finds the variety rewarding. “I’m moved when patients, who otherwise might be complete strangers, share things with me. That’s part of why I came back to WNY: to be present for family and be part of this community. It gives me faith.”
Any challenges Lanighan faces seem to be mostly external. “Doctors don’t have all the answers; we can’t fix everything,” he says. “And, it’s difficult that, frequently, healthcare decisions depend on things like insurance co-pays and deductibles. Also, because of the internet, there can be ‘information overload’—it can be hard for patients to know whom to trust and believe. Just because an operation is available doesn’t always make it right. My goal is to continue focusing on the practice of medicine where I still have significant influence on how care is provided.”
Lanighan exercises daily, practicing what he preaches, whether he’s running outside or on a treadmill. He’s also been climbing high peaks in the Northeast for over fifteen years, with a group of “gentlemen.” “Of New Hampshire’s forty-eight high peaks, we’ve done thirty so far,” he reports. “It’s vigorous outdoor fun with good friends.”
His adult children—twenty-six, twenty-eight, and thirty-one—are another source of enjoyment for the doctor, who’s fascinated by watching and being part of their unfolding lives. He’s smitten with downtown, UB, and the lack of traffic, not necessarily in that order. “I love the community; I love Shea's, the BPO, and the jazz scene (check out the Buffalo Jazz Collective). I love that you can ski in Ellicottville. I appreciate being close to a large university; we are season ticket holders for the UB speaker series and big Bulls fans.”
His attitude about the bigger picture of his field overall is an appropriate summary of his life philosophy: “Physicians need to play a big role in the future model of health care. In the end, institutions and systems don’t care for people,” he says. “People do.”