Annually, around 1 million Americans require some form of total joint replacement. The Joint Replacement Center, part of the SSM Health Orthopedics Center on the campus of SSM Health DePaul Hospital, is dedicated to ensuring the best possible outcomes for joint replacement patients. The short-stay, 30-bed hospital unit offers specialty care by surgeons, nurses and other providers. That expertise means faster recovery, shorter hospital stays, fewer complications and happier patients.

The Joint Replacement Center was established with the goal of providing patients better outcomes after joint replacement surgery. SSM Health orthopedic surgeon Dr. William Schroer notes that the best way to do so is to focus every aspect of the process on specialized care. “The surgery itself is only one part, taking around just an hour,” he explains. “The key to patient care starts with education and ensuring they are optimized for surgery well before the procedure begins, and it continues into the post-operative care.” Patients at the center work with nurses and staff specially trained and certified in orthopedic care at every step of their joint replacement journey.

The center was the first hospital unit in St. Louis to earn both Advanced Certification in total hip and knee replacement and Core Certification in total shoulder replacement from The Joint Commission. The certifications represent the Joint Replacement Center’s dedication to exceeding national standards of care. “Physicians, therapists and nurses all work together to take care of the patient,” SSM Health orthopedic surgeon Dr. Katherine Burns says. “The important thing is not that one doctor is working hard to be good at what they do, but an entire community is working to ensure the best possible care.”

Care at the Joint Replacement Center is further optimized by the specialization of its surgeons. Schroer specializes in knee replacement, and Burns’ area of expertise is shoulder replacement. Along with their peers, they perform more joint replacements than most surgeons in the nation. “Around 90% of orthopedic surgeons do knee replacements, but half of them do less than 30 a year,” Schroer notes. “They also work on shoulders and hips and help patients with other issues, such as carpal tunnel. Because they’re only doing two or three of each procedure a month, they can’t spend the time to really standardize the care. I do between 600 and 700 knee replacements a year. That means I’m a lousy shoulder surgeon, but I can provide the best care for my knee patients.”

To better serve patients, the Joint Replacement Center also regularly conducts research centered on improving outcomes. Schroer was part of a study on the positive impact of nutritional intervention before surgery for knee replacement patients, which received national recognition from The Knee Society. For shoulder replacements, Burns notes the center has investigated how to eliminate pathways to addiction and reduce the use of opioids following surgery. “We’re dedicated to optimizing patient care, and that means tracking various metrics and outcomes,” Burns says. “That is the future of orthopedic care. Our goal is to match the right patient with the right surgeon using the right technology.”

The Joint Replacement Center at SSM Health DePaul Hospital offers specialty care by health care providers certified in orthopedics. Pictured on the cover, clockwise from left: Orthopedic surgeons Dr. Frank Tull, Dr. Gregory Nelson, Dr. William Schroer, Dr. Katherine Burns. For more information, call 314.291.7900 or visit

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo by Tim Parker Photography

Pictured at top: Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Katherine Burns works with a patient.
Photo: Tim Parker Photography