Photos Andy Calvert
The human form gets its structural integrity, as well as much of its aesthetic beauty, from its underlying skeletal system and musculature. They make us strong, agile, active, and ready to face life in a world that demands movement and vitality. When something goes wrong with a person’s bones and muscles because of injury, disease, or deformity, it falls to orthopaedic medicine to step in and right what is wrong. The dedicated medical professionals at Rome Orthopaedic Center provide their patients with the kind of compassionate treatment and care that restores the physical function they need to return to the things they enjoy.
Rome Orthopaedic Center (ROC) provides medical expertise in sports medicine, joint replacement, and in dealing with issues regarding hand and wrist, elbow, foot, ankle, hip, knee, and shoulder, as well as trauma and workers’ compensation.
Who is the patient?
In a broad sense, ROC serves three kinds of patients. First, those who get injured, perhaps in a fall or a car accident. Second, people who injure themselves but do not know it right away, like someone who damages a ligament in the knee but doesn’t realize it until it begins to hurt sometime later. Third, those who suffer a slow-developing injury over time, like arthritis, a bad knee, or a worn-out rotator cuff—from general overuse and wear and tear.
These three groups of patients cover all age ranges. Recently, ROC’s patients have covered the scale in age from eight months to 105 years. Among children, some of the most common injuries come from play, things like accidents on trampolines and monkey bars. Northwest Georgia, being largely rural, also sees its share of four-wheeler and ATV accidents. Work-related injuries typically occur in people in factory jobs and agriculture.
The doctors, physical therapists, and advanced practice providers (APPs) at ROC encourage people to not delay seeking treatment if they have an injury or some sort of persistent or periodically reoccurring pain. They also stress to their patients the importance of giving their injuries adequate time to heal after surgery, treatment, and physical therapy.
Some people, especially athletes, tend to want to return too quickly to their favorite activities before their bodies are ready for them. However, in this regard, every patient is unique as to motivation. Some need to be pushed a little, while others must be cautioned to take it easy and allow the healing to happen at its own pace. For the staff at ROC, this often requires a nuanced approach to analyze each patient’s personality and help them along the path that will help them safely reach their goals.
With so many middle schools, high schools, and colleges in Northwest Georgia, there is strong demand for sports medicine providers. Athletes, young and ambitious to win, sometimes get injured. ROC is there to do its part to restore them to full health and get them back in the game. The sports medicine surgeons at ROC have been selected as the official team physicians and orthopaedic providers to local high school and college sports teams as well as U. S. national teams.
Dr. Stephen Brown says, “I grew up playing sports, and I played football through college. Early on, I thought I would practice interventional cardiology, but I shifted gears.” Now, along with Dr. Charles May, he specializes in sports medicine.
This includes dealing with injuries consisting of ACL reconstructions, rotator cuff repairs, total joint replacements of the knees and shoulders, and general orthopaedic trauma and fracture care. “I’ve always enjoyed working with athletes,” Dr. Brown says. “They’re always motivated to get back quickly, and they’re generally healthy people.” Smiling, he adds, “And I still like the smell of the grass on the football field.”
All in one place
A huge benefit for Rome Orthopaedic Center’s patients is the convenience of having every aspect of a medical need met in one facility: assessment, surgery, and physical therapy. To expedite appointments, ROC employs a number of physician assistants: Andrew Harper, PA-C, Heather Hoyt, NP-C, Colin Matheny, PA-C, Chandler Holcombe, PA-C, and Brooke Bingham, PA-C. With physicians and APPs seeing patients daily, the goal is to reduce wait times for visits to no more than a few days. The PA and NP staff bring a wealth of experience in treating orthopeadic injuries and problems.
“Also, sometimes it’s more economical for the patient to have it done in an outpatient setting,” says Dr. May. “We do everything from carpal tunnel procedures to arthroscopic procedures to same-day joint replacements right here in our on-site surgical center.” Dr. May explains that if a patient had a serious health problem—like heart disease or diabetes—ROC would do the surgery in a local hospital. He says, “Any patient that requires an overnight stay would need to go to a hospital, but we do most of our outpatient work right here.”
Dr. Justin Dunn performs total joint replacements including direct anterior total hips. He also performs total joint revisions. “We perform a wide range of outpatient orthopedic procedures at our surgery center,” Dr. Dunn says, “including total joint arthroplasty. In order to provide our patients with the most advanced techniques in joint replacement, we are excited to have recently added robotic technology.”
Dr. Michael Paxten is a hand, wrist, and elbow surgeon. He performs fracture, tendon, and nerve repairs. He also performs another form of joint replacement, CMC joint arthroplasty at the base of the thumb. He performs other common procedures, such as endoscopic carpal tunnel releases, trigger finger releases, and ganglion cyst excisions.
Patients can be assured that at ROC’s surgery center they will receive a high level of care. In addition to the superb nursing care provided, the surgery center is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which holds them to a standard of excellence.
Very often, physical therapy begins the day after surgery. It wasn’t always that way. As Dr. May describes it, “When I started practicing, if you had a knee replacement you stayed four nights in the hospital. But now our patients go home from our surgical center that same day.” He goes on to explain, “For instance, I may do an ACL surgery on an athlete—we’ll have everything coordinated beforehand. The patient doesn’t have to call us; we take care of it.”
Typically, physical therapists wind up spending more time with a patient than doctors do, and they are there to help complete the cycle that began with the patient’s first consultation. ROC’s highly skilled physical therapists include Cory Tucker, Hunter Treglown, and Alea Vick. Director of physical therapy Cory Tucker, says, “One of the unique scenarios here is that we’re able to provide care from front to back. Based on the physicians’ recommendations, we can come alongside the patients and help coach them through their decision-making process as they’re returning to their sport or other activities in their lives.”
Balancing the facets of medical assessment, treatment, surgery, and physical therapy takes a great deal of coordination, and requires a skilled individual to ensure each aspect of the practice runs smoothly. “I know that I speak for all of the doctors when I say that Office Manager Melissa Sullivan is the glue who holds the office together,” says Dr. Stephen Brown.
All the medical professionals at ROC are bright and talented individuals; it stands to reason they could have done any number of other things with their careers. So, why medicine in general, or orthopaedics in particular? Motivations vary slightly, but they follow a similar line of thinking. They want to help people, to contribute to patients improving the quality of their lives.
Dr. Scott Bowerman, for instance, says, “I’ve been here twenty-six years. My father was a physician, so when I was growing up I thought, ‘Hey, Dad’s a doctor; maybe I could be one too.’ And I found that I cared about people and wanted to help them.”
Then there are those who first took note of this field of medicine as a patient. For instance, Tucker says, “While playing college baseball I had an injury, and going through the process of physical therapy gave me a passion for it.”
Dr. Stephen Brown says, for him, it comes down to “helping people restore functionality. We can take someone from a debilitating position and treat them—either surgically or non-operatively—and then they are able to do what they couldn’t do before. That’s very rewarding.”
For the medical professionals at ROC, one plus to working in a small city like Rome, Georgia, is getting constant reminders of the good they are doing. They receive a common source of reassurance that their work matters when they run into former patients in public and hear updates on their progress. These surgeries, treatments, and physical therapy sessions have quite literally given people their lives back. These previous patients (satisfied customers, if you will) like to talk about the improvements to their everyday lives. The stories keep coming of how the doctors and physical therapists at ROC are making a difference in serving others.
Then there’s the satisfaction of seeing the emotional change that takes place in the patients’ lives. Often, by the time patients get around to seeing a doctor about their medical issue, they are already suffering from long-term depression and discouragement over declining health. Sometimes they’ve endured these things for years before seeking help.
They may be in chronic pain or live in a perpetual state of fatigue from a lack of sleep, making their lives pretty bleak. But then the staff at ROC intervenes with a treatment plan which may include surgery, and the patients may begin to see an improvement in how they feel and what they can do. Add to that weeks or months of rehab and the patients can regain functions they have not enjoyed for a long time.
Tucker explains that, in his experience, patients that take the time to care about their physical therapy are always, afterward, glad they did, even if initially they were reluctant. He says, “In PT, we spend about an hour with each patient per visit—about three hours per week—so we get to see the whole emotional arc from their first session to their last one. And we sometimes get to meet and know their families—kids and grandkids.”
When Dr. Bowerman first opened his office in Rome, he was in solo practice for the first four years. He says, “I had an idea that it would do well, but I had no way of knowing that it would grow like it has. Charlie [Dr. May] came along, and we recruited others. Rome made that easy—this is a great place to raise a family—and we grew from there. It’s been twenty years since we moved into this building, and now we’re outgrowing this space.”
Dr. May credits his work’s degree of personal satisfaction as his motivation to practice in this field. That is, the work itself energizes him to keep on doing it. He says, “It’s like what I tell my children—as long as you’re helping other people, you’ll be happy with whatever you do.”
That’s what it comes down to with the medical professionals at Rome Orthopaedic Center: helping people, giving them the gift of renewed strength and movement and hope. They walk with their patients through some dark times, encouraging, educating, healing. It’s what they do best, returning people to the lives they love.