Jonathan Juin-Jen Cheng, MD Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center
UTSW Physician Practicing at Children's Health
When it came time to choose a specialty during his training, Dr. Jonathan Cheng wanted a challenge. So he pursued pediatric hand surgery, focusing on a part of the body known for its complexity.
“As you can imagine, the hand is the leading edge of involvement with the physical world,” Dr. Cheng says. “That makes it vulnerable to injury in children, especially athletes.”
Young children also rely on their hands to interact with the world and make sense of it. After becoming a parent himself, Dr. Cheng gained an even greater appreciation of this vital function — and an even deeper empathy for the concerned parents who bring their children to him.
Dr. Cheng and his practice partner, Dr. Jennifer Kargel, care for up to 3,000 Children’s Health℠ patients every year, treating sports injuries, trauma, and all other hand and wrist problems.
Some of his patients have congenital differences, including unusual configurations of the hand — fingers connected to one another (syndactyly), parts of the hand or thumb missing (constriction ring, symbrachydactyly, hypoplastic thumb) or hand bent severely inward (radial dysplasia), for example.
“The baseline for all the work we do is to restore the hand back to a function and an appearance that is as normal as possible,” Dr. Cheng says. Because the hand has so many parts, operating on them requires knowledge of many different systems in the body, including bones, joints, nerves, tendons, blood vessels and skin. “Hand surgeons have to be experts in all of it,” he says.
What Dr. Cheng particularly likes about specializing in the hand is the ability to work carefully with patients and determine how he can help them. He spends time talking to each patient and parent, and conducts a thorough physical exam — much like the traditional family doctors he admires.
Dr. Cheng is also pursuing the leading edge of his specialty. In addition to his Children's practice, he runs the Nerve Lab at UT Southwestern Medical Center, where he is chief of pediatric hand, peripheral nerve and microvascular surgery in the Department of Plastic Surgery. He has a specific interest in peripheral nerve tissue engineering, and is working on ways to connect a robotic replacement hand to nerves in the arm. “Eventually, we hope to translate that into something that can be done for kids,” he says.
Dr. Cheng is board-certified in plastic surgery and hand surgery. He is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. He earned his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine. He completed his plastic surgery residency at Medical College of Wisconsin, and further trained in hand surgery and microsurgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where he had a peripheral nerve fellowship.
An avid skier and cyclist, Dr. Cheng is also an amateur bicycle mechanic. Diagnosing and fixing bike problems has made him an even better surgeon, and vice versa, he believes. “It’s all about noticing what doesn’t sound right and what isn’t moving right, and understanding the dynamics of a complex mechanical system,” he says.
Education and Training
Medical SchoolBaylor College of Medicine (2000)
ResidencyMedical College of Wisconsin (2006), Plastic Surgery
FellowshipWashington University School of Medicine (2007), Hand Surgery
Research & Publications
- Adult hand surgery
- Brachial plexus reconstruction
- Breast reconstruction
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Facial reanimation
- Lymphatic reconstruction after breast cancer
- Nerve regeneration
- Nerve-machine interface
- Pediatric hand surgery
- Tissue engineering
- Peripheral neuropathy: surgical approaches simplified for the imagers.
Kao DS, Cheng J Semin Musculoskelet Radiol 2015 Apr 19 2 121-9
- Chronic sensory-motor activity in behaving animals using regenerative multi-electrode interfaces.
Desai VH, Anand S, Tran M, Kanneganti A, Vasudevan S, Seifert JL, Cheng J, Keefer EW, Romero-Ortega MI Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc 2014 Aug 2014 1973-6
- Detergent-free decellularized nerve grafts for long-gap peripheral nerve reconstruction.
Vasudevan S, Huang J, Botterman B, Matloub HS, Keefer E, Cheng J Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open 2014 2 8 e201
- A rat model for long-gap peripheral nerve reconstruction.
Vasudevan S, Yan JG, Zhang LL, Matloub HS, Cheng JJ Plast. Reconstr. Surg.2013 Oct 132 4 871-6
- Evaluation of the scratch collapse test in peroneal nerve compression.
Gillenwater J, Cheng J, Mackinnon SE Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 2011 Oct 128 4
- Discussion: Lymphaticovenular bypass for lymphedema management in breast cancer patients: a prospective study.
Cheng J Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 2010 Sep 126 3
- Intraneural perineurioma of the radial nerve in a child.
Cortes W, Cheng J, Matloub HS J Hand Surg Am 2005 Jul 30 4
- Topographic mapping of the superior transverse scapular ligament: a cadaver study to facilitate suprascapular nerve decompression.
Weinfeld AB, Cheng J, Nath RK, Basaran I, Yuksel E, Rose JE Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 2002 Sep 110 3
- The effects of increased gravity and microgravity on cardiac morphology.
Goldstein MA, Cheng J, Schroeter JP Aviat Space Environ Med 1998 Jun 69 6 Suppl
Professional Associations and Affiliations
- American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (2014)
- Fellow, American College of Surgeons (2012)
- American Society for Surgery of the Hand (2011)
- Plastic Surgery Research Council (2011)
Awards & Honors
- President, Faculty Senate
UT Southwestern Medical Center (2014-2015)
- Chief of Hand, Peripheral Nerve, and Microvascular Surgery
Division of Plastic Surgery, Children's Medical Center, Dallas (2013)
- Co-Director of Microsurgery Fellowship
- Fellow of the American College of Surgeons
- Certificate of Added Qualification in Hand Surgery, American Board of Plastic Surgery
Board Certified Hand Surgeon (2010)
- Diplomate, American Board of Plastic Surgery
Board Certified Plastic Surgeon (2010)
- Faculty Senator
UT Southwestern Medical Center (2010)
- Young Leader, American Society for Surgery of the Hand
- Stephen Kroll Memorial Scholarship
International competitively-selected scholarship in perforator flap microsurgery. (2007)