Campbell Clinic's Commitment to Heal and Give Back

Campbell Clinic's Commitment to Heal and Give Back

Campbell Clinic has built a reputation in its 100-plus years of operation as a premier orthopedic care provider in Memphis.


It – literally – wrote the textbook on orthopedic surgery. “Campbell’s Operative Orthopaedics” is in its 13th printing, and is used by orthopedists around the world. The physicians at Campbell’s five locations across the Memphis area provide a range of orthopedic services.


And then there’s Friday nights. Campbell Clinic employs athletic trainers that cover 14 high schools, with physicians often traveling with teams. The Grizzlies’ team doctor is a Campbell Clinic physician, as are the team doctors for the University of Memphis, not to mention other sports training facilities, teams and organizations.


But at the core of it all is a mission of care, service to the profession and to a greater community. The Campbell Foundation began in 1946 based on founder Dr. Willis C. Campbell’s commitment to give back to the profession through education.


Campbell opened the clinic in 1909 and soon organized the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. He established the first orthopaedic residency program and co-founded the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, serving as its first elected president.


He also wrote that first textbook, “Campbell’s Operative Orthopaedics.”


“Dr. Campbell was committed to building the educational body of knowledge that is baked into our DNA by giving back to the profession through education,” said Karen Watson, executive director of development with The Campbell Foundation.


The foundation has three missions: education, research and community health care.


Giving back to the profession in Memphis includes a five-year, eight-slot residency program. At any one point there are 40 surgical residents working alongside Campbell Clinic’s physicians as they learn the practice.

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One example of the education component at work can be seen on Monday nights when part of the core curriculum is a three-hour lecture on every sub-specialty the clinic sees.


“I come away from those meetings every week just astounded,” Watson said. “It’s really all the king’s horses and all the king’s men putting people back together again. They show amazing cases where people are severely injured and a year later they’re walking around.”


A legacy of giving back through community outreach dates back to around 1918 when several wealthy Memphis women approached Campbell and told him they wanted to buy a wheelchair for the clinic’s work with children with congenital deformities. He then challenged them to build a hospital, which became a center for crippled children and later adults.


“Today if you have an orthopedic injury and need care at any of our Downtown hospitals it’s a Campbell Clinic doctor that provides the care,” Watson said. “Some of that care is compensated and some is not. But for these doctors who provide care we have thousands in our midst who wouldn’t be able to go back to work, walk, play or just live.”


Several years ago Campbell Clinic added to that mission. As the clinic and foundation have advanced orthopedic surgery and researching new innovations the time seemed right to take the work beyond the borders of the United States.


Campbell Clinic began working with local partners, including the abundant medical device industry in town, to send physicians to other countries providing care and supplies. The program is called Footprints in Motion, and it’s an opportunity for Campbell Clinic to share its care and expertise.

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“It’s more than sending a medical professional for a couple of weeks and then leave,” Watson said. “We want to leave knowledge so they can continue to treat their own patients.”


Often when the Campbell Clinic residents are in another country and meet with local physicians a copy of the Campbell textbook comes off the shelf. That respect for Campbell Clinic and the role its professionals have played in the profession is clear on those missions.


But admiration isn’t the goal, and the work would be much more difficult if not for the in-kind support given by the various orthopedic device manufacturers and individuals in the community.


The mission trips began in 2013, and there have been four so far. The first was to Nicaragua, followed by Guatemala, Honduras and Tanzania. Taking care to these communities where it doesn’t exist is one part of the mission. Another is education and training, especially in communities where the medical professionals aren’t equipped to deal with complex orthopedic injuries.


The idea of medical missions has been a longstanding effort for Campbell Clinic, but it received a boost when Watson and Campbell Clinic’s Chief Financial Officer Daniel Shumate attended a University of Memphis alumni breakfast that featured Bill Courtney of “Undefeated” fame. He shared his experience and his call to action at the end of the talk was for everyone to simply give where they are.


“That struck home and Daniel and I happened to talk and we had a resident interested in doing a medical mission,” Watson said. “I said, ‘You know, Daniel, you have an opportunity as well. You can empower someone to make it happen.’”

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A newlywed, Shumate created the Molly Shumate Community Service Scholarship at The Campbell Foundation in honor of his new bride. He gave her the gift for Christmas, and she said they needed to do more.


So the foundation’s first fundraiser followed, called Footprints in Motion.


“Molly and Daniel very nearly single-handedly carried the bulk of the water,” Watson said. “It’s grown every year. We like it because it’s given us a chance to talk about The Campbell Foundation and other things in the community people don’t know about.”


The fundraiser is held in April. Leading up to it the foundation is in collection mode for items that can be used in the event’s auction. The foundation is always looking for items as well as people who can share their unique stories of how orthopedics has touched their lives.


And of course financial donations are always needed and can be made directly to the foundation.


Chad Gilbert, marketing and PR director for Campbell Clinic, stressed that the mission work that Campbell Clinic and The Campbell Foundation does begins with its people.


“The commitment our physicians have to give back to the community and the profession, they’re humble in doing so because they think it’s their responsibility,” he said. “They have expanded service hours beyond the traditional scope of a 9-to-5 clinic. They pioneered the after-hours model that’s become in vogue.”


That is part of an overall commitment to ensuring the wider population has access to the best orthopedic care.




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