Specialist spotlight: Paging Dr. Alison Cabrera
March 9, 2019
Some people find inspiration by following in the footsteps of a parent or mentor. Others by overcoming adversity.
For Alison Cabrera, both played an essential role in her journey to becoming a physician.
Growing up in Garland, the second of three sisters, she watched as her mother juggled the demands of raising a family while also attending medical school at UT Southwestern.
And when Alison suffered a devastating knee injury playing high school volleyball, she saw firsthand the wonders of orthopedic surgery and how it can get people back on their feet, and sometimes started on a new path.
Now, Dr. Alison Cabrera has returned to North Texas, ready to care for orthopedic patients at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Frisco and practice alongside another Dr. Cabrera, whom she knows pretty well.
What was it like having a mom in medical school as a teenager?
“My mom took a different path to becoming a doctor. She didn’t really have the resources to go to college when she was growing up, so she ended up having a family first and then went to college and eventually UT Southwestern for medical school. We watched her go through that process and it definitely inspired me. Honestly, I don’t know how she did it, but she was always at our games and all of my volleyball tournaments. We had a very supportive dad, too. They just made it work.”
And now you’re married to a physician?
“After my undergraduate years at Texas A&M, I went to UT Health Science Center at San Antonio for medical school and residency, and met my husband, Juan Cabrera. I decided he was worth sticking around for. Then I got the opportunity to do a shoulder and sports medicine fellowship at Vanderbilt University in 2012, and we moved to Tennessee. Eventually, I felt the urge to head back home - my whole family still lives around the Dallas area. So we moved to Prosper and will both be working at UT Southwestern Frisco.”
Are you looking forward to working so closely with your husband?
“That’s a loaded question (laughs). We’ve actually worked together before in San Antonio and it was nice to meet for lunch and catch up. At our last hospital, we would occasionally share patients. (Dr. Juan Cabrera is a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist). I would have patients with hip fractures or other injuries that required rehab afterward, and he would be their doctor. When they came in for a follow-up, they’d say, ‘Your husband is so great!’ They’d give him all these accolades, and I would show them the X-rays and say, ‘Look, I spent hours fixing your hip.’ But they would still give him most of the praise, and I’m OK with that. He is pretty great.”
What drew you to orthopedic surgery as a specialty?
“I played high school and club volleyball, and I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) right before nationals. That’s when all the recruiters show up. I was pretty devastated, and when I first met my orthopedist I didn’t want to believe his diagnosis. But after I had the surgery, I began to think, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ I thought it would be amazing to help athletes get back to playing, and everyday folks back to functioning and playing with their kids.
What have been some of your most challenging surgeries?
“Revision shoulder surgeries are the most difficult cases. The original shoulder implant can be hard to remove, and the shoulder is a very complicated joint. But I like the challenge, and I enjoy helping my patients get back to full function.”
What other conditions will you treat at UT Southwestern Frisco?
“I’ll be doing ACL and meniscus injuries in the knee, and labral tearing or dislocations of the shoulder. A little bit of everything. We also have hand, elbow, foot, and ankle specialists, along with a doctor who has particular talents with ultrasound. We’ve got a good team lined up for Frisco. And that’s just in orthopedics. There is also general surgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation, spine, and sports medicine as well. We will all work together.”
Dr. Alison Cabrera: Turning an injury into an opportunity
A volleyball player in high school, Dr. Alison Cabrera developed an interest in orthopedics after suffering a devastating knee injury. She followed in her mother's footsteps when she decided to go to medical school, and now the orthopedic surgeon has come home to North Texas to care for the booming community of Frisco.
What are some of the advanced technologies you’ll be using in Frisco?
“Almost every procedure that we used to do as an open surgery we can now do through the scope with the exception of shoulder replacement. Arthroscopic surgery tools allow us to see a torn ligament and treat it by making only a small incision, which means patients have less pain, less scarring, and fewer complications. We can also do a stemless shoulder replacement for younger patients, which means the humoral head (or ball portion of the joint) does not sit on a metal stem, preserving more of the patient’s bone.”
What do you think UT Southwestern will bring to the community?
“We moved to Prosper this summer and we love it. We have two boys, 9 and 2, and it’s definitely a very active area. I think what the community is going to get is the expertise and evidence-based approach to medicine that UT Southwestern is known for, and all of that expertise will be right in their backyard. ”