Photos Cameron Flaisch - L-R: Robert Baudier, OPA, ATC, Brandon Bushnell, MD, MBA, Dutch Masters, and Ashley Gaulin, PA‑C.
The human musculoskeletal system might not be on the forefront of a person’s mind on a daily basis. That is, until something goes seriously wrong with it, then it is all they can think about. Fortunately for the people of northwest Georgia, the staff of Rome’s Harbin Clinic Orthopedics & Sports Medicine is here to help.
One of those stellar professionals is Dr. Brandon Bushnell, MD, MBA. The way he sees it, his job consists of three parts. First, to educate, to clearly lay out all the patient’s options. Second, to recommend, to help guide the patient through the decision process of choosing the best course of treatment. Lastly, to execute, to put that treatment plan into action.
“For me, it’s a job, but it’s also a calling,” Bushnell says.
It runs in the family
Growing up in Athens, Georgia, Bushnell had a front row seat to see how wholehearted community medicine was done. His grandfather (who graduated medical school at 22) practiced general internal medicine for an unheard-of 59 years. “He knew everyone in town,” Bushnell says. “He treated multiple generations of the same families. I knew early that’s what I wanted to do, too.”
That dream came true for Bushnell when he joined Harbin Clinic in 2009. “Now I get to take care of my friends and neighbors,” he says, “old, young, acute, chronic. A big spectrum of ages and people. It’s been a lot of fun practicing here in Rome.”
“I discovered early on that I really liked working with my hands and fixing things,” says Bushnell. “I liked the immediacy of trauma surgery. I liked being able to take worn-out joints and make them new again, giving people hope and a new lease on an active life.”
Educating, recommending, executing
Dr. Bushnell’s philosophy of medicine is well illustrated by his relationship with one of his patients, Dutch (Gregory) Masters. Then in his 50s, Masters first came to Harbin Clinic Orthopedics & Sports Medicine with shoulder problems: the left shoulder suffered from basketball wear and tear, and the right shoulder had an old football injury (from flag football, no less). Masters, then still an airlines pilot, says he was impressed that Dr. Bushnell did not use surgery as his immediate default solution.
As Masters puts it: “He said, ‘Here’s what we can fix, but here’s the downside to surgery…it might help you play basketball, but it may make pulling the yoke on the aircraft more difficult on takeoff.’” After weighing their options, they finally agreed on foregoing surgery and pursuing physical therapy instead, about which Masters says, “That worked out great!”
Eventually, playing basketball caused a tear of Masters’ meniscus (cartilage in the knee joint). Again, Dr. Bushnell gave him options: “We can do surgery, but let’s try steroid shots first, and if that doesn’t work, we can do surgery later.”
Masters says, “After only two injections, I was running up and down the basketball court virtually pain free for years…until I completely wrecked my ‘good’ knee.”
When physical therapy isn’t enough
When Masters was 58 years old, he finally had an injury that could not be treated with physical therapy alone. Bushnell says, “Dutch had an injury that we associate with teenagers and twenty-somethings, an ACL tear. (The ACL is the ligament inside the knee that keeps the shinbone from shifting out of place.)
Even today at age 60, running stadium stairs or playing tennis with a reconstructed ACL, a partial meniscus, and a torn meniscus on the other knee, he pays close attention to what his body is saying to him and bears in mind what Bushnell told him: “If it hurts, stop doing it.” (Sage advice from the doctor’s own physician grandfather.)
“If you have a great attitude and you commit to the rehab,” says Bushnell, “you can get back to what you love. It’s the power of the body that God designed. Sometimes it can heal on its own, and sometimes it needs help.”
Masters’ physical therapist told him, “We’ve never had a patient recovering from this kind of surgery at your age…by thirty-five years!” That’s a testament to Masters’ determination to continue living an active lifestyle and Dr. Bushnell and his team’s determination to help him make that happen.
To learn more about Harbin Clinic Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, visit harbinclinic.com/orthopedics