Jonathan Juin-Jen Cheng, MD $$

Pediatric Hand Surgeon

Professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center

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UT Southwestern Pediatric Group

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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. Jonathan Cheng

“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. Jonathan Change a pediatric hand surgeon is with patient Camila at Children's Health Specialty Center 2 Plano

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 School
Baylor College of Medicine (2000)
Medical College of Wisconsin (2006), Plastic Surgery
Washington University School of Medicine (2007), Hand Surgery
Board Certification
American Board of Plastic Surgery

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