The ancient Greek physician Herodicus is sometimes referred to as the very first doctor of sports medicine.
Ask most people in the medical and athletic communities who are the standard bearers for sports medicine in Mississippi and the answer is the three Jackson surgeons who founded Mississippi Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center.
While Herodicus’ theories are considered the foundation of sports medicine, the same could be said for the pioneering contributions of Gene Barrett, Walter Shelton and J.O. Manning in the Magnolia State.
Founded in 1984, Mississippi Sports Medicine is the state’s first and only full-service provider of specialized orthopaedic care. Located on the site of a former Confederate artillery battery position on Fortification Street, the 46,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility includes a fully-equipped physical therapy center with a hydro-therapy pool and on-site physical therapists to guide patients to full recovery – all under one roof.
Now retired, Manning said there was doubt among some local physicians when the trio announced they were opening a clinic devoted to sports medicine.
“One prominent surgeon on town said we’d never stay together – in fact, many people were amused that we would even attempt to do this,” he said. “One key to our success was that we were always available, day or night. We’ve always stayed until we saw the last patient of the day.”
Adds Barrett, grinning: “The key to building a good clinic is to hire people smarter than you are.”
The idea for a sports medicine clinic in Jackson was hatched after a conversation with Barrett on the fifth floor nurses’ station at St. Dominic’s Hospital, said Shelton. Good friends but working in separate practice, the pair decided it was time to join forces.
However, they wouldn’t launch the clinic without Manning on board.
“The one person that would give the clinic credibility was Jimmy Manning,” Shelton said. “He’d been the team doctor for Jackson State athletics and had treated and befriended (late NFL Hall of Fame member) Walter Payton. That’s instant credibility.”
For the fourth consecutive year, the Medical Group Management Association has named the Mississippi Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center as a “Better Performer,” which recognizes “superior operational performance with similar medical practices” nationwide. The clinic is the only practice in Mississippi to earn the distinction this year.
The MSMOC employs 12 board-certified, Fellowship-trained specialists who perform shoulder, elbow, hand, hip, knee, ankle and foot procedures. Through its Sports Medicine and Arthroscopic Fellowship program, the clinic is also training the next generation of orthopaedic specialists.
“The Fellowship program was begun in 1993 and it’s what sets us apart from everyone else,” Shelton said. “Bob Lodes, our administrator, has really helped us mold our vision and the Fellowship was a big turning point.”
The 12-month program is accredited with five approved Fellowship positions and attracts a plethora of candidates from across the nation. Today, there are more than 50 MSMOC-trained orthopaedic fellows practicing throughout North America.
Service to the community is a hallmark of the MSMOC’s mission, said Barrett.
“We all love sports and being around athletes, especially those that participate in sports at all levels,” he said. “It’s important to give back to the community.”
Consider that Mississippi Sport Medicine offers:
>> Free annual screenings for 5,000 high school and college athletes each year
>> Free examinations for high school football players injured on Friday game nights
>> Free athletic training services at amateur events
>> Indigent health insurance provided through the MCMOC Foundation to Jackson Public Schools (now exceeding $300,000)
“The desire to contribute and give back to the community is mostly missing in the medical community,” Shelton said. “For us, it’s what gives you professional satisfaction.”
From its humble beginnings in a cramped north Jackson office to the palatial building the clinic occupies in Belhaven today, there’s little doubt that MSMOC has changed the landscape of orthopaedic services in Mississippi.
“It’s been a great 27 years working with these guys and I wish we had 27 more,” Barrett said. “The patients and people who have supported us have been real friends to us. Hopefully, we’ve been the same to them.”
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