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Leading edge specialty clinic sees 20-year milestone

Jackson — Sports medicine is now an important part of healthcare, but it was a new concept when three Jackson physicians opened the Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center (MSMOC) 20 years ago. All three were heavily involved in treating athletes and were part of the labeling of “sports medicine.” The clinic of Drs. J.O. Manning, Walter Shelton and Gene Barrett began in 1984 near River Oaks Hospital and moved to the renovated State Farm Insurance building on Fortification Street in 1987.

Administrator Robert Lodes, who’s been with the group 15 years, said, “It was a new concept. Dr. Manning was the surgeon for Jackson State and the other two came together with the realization of treating the total athlete. It was cutting edge at that time and the first sports medicine clinic in Mississippi to our knowledge.”

MSMOC’s head athletic trainer, Mike Wilkinson, said, “Sports medicine is for anyone who participates in sports, not just school athletes. It doesn’t mean different injuries, but the patient’s motivation for healing is different.”

In 1989, MSMOC had three physicians and 18 employees. Now they have nine physicians and 95 employees. The space has grown from 12,000 square feet to 22,000 and will almost double when it jumps to 40,000 in August of this year. That’s when the new addition will open that will provide rehabilitation and imaging services, a surgery center and the first clinic in the state to have digital X-rays. The wet lab will enable manufacturers to demonstrate the use of equipment on the spot. The surgery center will have an auditorium where surgeries can be viewed. The clinic has also kept up with computer technology by becoming a paperless office.

But it’s the programs MSMOC has developed that give them the most pride. It was the first clinic in the state to offer free physicals for high school athletes. It began in 1990 and has grown to include about 4,000 students in an eight-hour period. The physicals are held at the Trade Mart with 75 doctors representing all specialties participating and Baptist Hospital helping.

“It’s an extensive screening and takes a lot of coordinating,” said Wilkinson. “It’s a big undertaking and an expensive thing to do.”

From the beginning, MSMOC has been taking care of college athletic teams. It is now involved with Jackson State, Alcorn, Mississippi Valley State, Delta State, Mississippi College and Millsaps College along with Hinds, Holmes, Southwest and Copiah-Lincoln community colleges.

“The physicians go to each event at our expense,” Wilkinson said. “We may have them flying to three different games on weekends. All of this coverage is donated. We have no contracts and the colleges are not obligated to send injured athletes to us.”

Wilkinson coordinates the activities of 13 athletic trainers, who cover area high schools plus satellite clinics in areas where sports medicine is not available. Other outreach activities include covering community youth sports.

Because all physicians at MSMOC are board certified and have received further training at notable institutions in the U.S. and abroad, they developed a fellowship program to foster specialized training for other Orthopaedic surgeons. It began with one visiting doctor and has grown to four, who begin each August and stay for one year.

“It’s a unique fellowship as a private clinic, but it is accredited by the accrediting council for graduate medical education,” Lodes said. “There are 35 doctors out there who have trained here.”

One of the founders, Dr. Walter Shelton, said, “We’ve always considered ourselves a regional specialty center. We get patients from all over. We’ve rubbed shoulders with the leading specialists in the world and are leading, not following.”

He says MSMOC has a philosophy of sub specialties whereby each physician takes an area of the body and develops expertise in that area. The specialties include lower extremities, upper extremities, hands and wrists, foot and ankle and total joints.

Lodes says that specialization, with each doctor gaining expertise in a certain area, has contributed to the clinic’s growth.

Shelton, 55, says sports medicine will continue to grow as people remain more active longer in life. “No other field of medicine, except cardiology, has grown as much in the last 20 years,” he said.

He pointed out that MSMOC recently did surgery on a senior Olympian, a sign of the times as older people continue to participate in sports. “Thirty or 40 years ago, it was common to have a knee injury in high school that ended a sports career,” he said. “We have learned how to repair those injuries now without getting arthritis. There’s a whole generation that’s more active.”

Another founder, Dr. Gene Barrett, 55, said two 60-year-old mountain climbers came in for knee surgeries not long ago and that the clinic sees many people over 40 involved in sports.

“This trend will continue because diagnostic skills, technical skills and biological skills will get better,” he said. “There have been big advances.”

The third founder, Manning, is now retired. MSMOC formed a foundation with its own contributions and those of companies who supply the clinic. The foundation uses interest from those funds to provide medical insurance for indigent young people and sponsors some of the state’s all-star games.

Dr. Barrett said MSMOC will continue to support the growth of sports medicine through the foundation, fellowships, research, speaking engagements and the scientific articles they write.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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