As Santa Rosa Orthopaedics (SRO) celebrates its 70th anniversary, it is moving ahead bringing leading edge musculoskeletal medical services to the North Bay.

SRO New Location

SRO New Location

In 1946, Dr. Carl E. Anderson, one of Santa Rosa’s first orthopaedic surgeons founded Santa Rosa Orthopaedics. In the 1960’s, he was joined by Dr. R. Dee Robbins, Dr. T. Wesley Hunter, and Dr. Freeman W. Born. They started with a small office across the street from Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, and served the community with three exam rooms, and an X-ray room.

Dr. Anderson’s community involvement extended beyond clinical orthopedics. Santa Rosa Orthopaedics pioneered local philanthropic projects included raising money for a multi-cultural preschool, establishing the Kid Street Learning Center, caring for disabled children, and supplying vegetables to the Rescue Mission. Dr. Anderson also served as an expert witness for medical issues. He was well-known for his research on cancerous tumors, and even worked for Governor Ronald Reagan in Sacramento, and attended Reagan’s presidential inauguration.

In 1968 the doctors built their “castle” of an office at the current location on Montgomery Drive, AKA “The Bone Palace”. A typical hospital stay for patients undergoing surgery for total joint replacements in those days was 7-10 days, sometimes 2 weeks.

As the practice continued to expand, more specialists were added, including Dr. James H. Bauer, Dr. Thomas Degenhardt and Dr. Matthew Zwerling. Dr. Gary Stein joined the practice in 1985, specializing in fracture care and joint replacement surgery. Drs. Mark Schakel and Michael Star later joined the practice bringing their expertise in spine, joint replacement and foot and ankle surgery.

The practice later added 2 Traumatologists, Drs. Fred Bennett and Nathan Ehmer who take care of the majority of Orthopaedic Trauma at Santa Rosa Memorial Regional Trauma Center.
In 2004, the doctors expanded and opened an office on Stony Point Road. This became the physical and occupational therapy department with an in-house MRI and gym. Dr. Michael McDermott joined the practice in 2006 at the Stony Point location specializing in Sports Medicine.

Over the years, SRO has advanced as fast as technology allowed. Lightweight casts are now made of fiberglass, on-site digital X-rays make imaging more accurate and available immediately. Digital images, whether taken on-site or transmitted from another facility, are quickly downloaded into the EHR system and available to each specialist for review.

The practice has increased staff from 20 employees in 1985 to 60 full time employees in 2016. SRO has continuously invested to improve infrastructure to better serve patients and the community.

Perhaps most amazingly, total joint replacement surgery can now be an outpatient procedure in healthy individuals. “Now, we do arthroscopic outpatient surgery, and we do minimally invasive outpatient total joint surgery. That includes knees, shoulders, and total hip replacements. We also do minimally invasive spine surgeries as outpatient surgery,” said Dr. Stein. “There is a lot less pain and recovery time is much faster.”

In the 1980’s, with the introduction of arthroscopy, the advancement in surgical techniques accelerated. Instead of open incisions, the surgeons were now making small puncture incisions and using tiny cameras to see what was going on inside the joint on a monitor. “And a lot of the tools evolved so you could do procedures you never thought possible, doing it all through a small portal. That made a huge change in the way Orthopaedics was done,” Dr. Stein said.

The practice has also grown from the initial 4 doctors to 10. Two hand and upper extremity specialists later joined the practice, Dr. Kai Mazur, in 1998 and Dr. Dominic Mintalucci in 2013. The most recent addition has been Dr. Christian Athanassious, specializing in Spine Surgery with minimally invasive surgical techniques for the spine.

“Adding all of those doctors has made a huge difference in the practice. We now have specialists in every area. We have all the bases covered as far as taking care of people with musculoskeletal problems. It’s good to have partners within your practice that have other sub-specialties, so that if you need to refer a patient, you know they are in good hands,” says Dr. Stein.

Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital became a regional trauma center about 15 years ago, and advances have been made there as well. “The methods of treatment of orthopedic trauma are much more aggressive than they were in the past. People used to spend time in traction and in the hospital for days and weeks healing a fracture. Now there is immediate fixation, stabilizing the fractures with less invasive techniques so that people can get up and mobilize right away and get out of the hospital quickly, with reduced complications secondary to being in bed. The way people recover has changed dramatically,” Dr. Stein said.

In 2014, SRO opened their vanguard facility on Mark West Springs Road, next door to the state-of-the-art Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital. The site boasts 16 offices and a leading edge physical therapy facility on the third floor. The added space is accommodating for the doctors to see more patients and improve patient flow, and compliments the six brand new outpatient surgery rooms on the first floor.

With improvements in surgical and anesthetic techniques, SRO surgeons began performing outpatient joint replacements last year. Anesthetic peripheral nerve block catheters gradually deliver anesthetic to block the nerve to the affected extremity for up to three days.

“It’s a better way of managing the discomfort. And when patients go home they immediately start outpatient physical therapy, so there is a continuum of care. The physical therapist evaluates them before the surgery and after the surgery before going home. After the surgery the Physical Therapists make sure patients are on track with what they need to do,” Dr. Stein said. “Having that component of the practice makes the care much more coordinated. Our therapists know our protocols and can access us at any time with questions, and they have direct access to the patient’s medical record, operation reports, and x-rays. It all improves the way the recovery goes for the patient.”

As SRO looks towards the future to optimize care, the outpatient surgery arena will continue to be enhanced, and as the need arises, additional specialty doctors will be recruited to the practice, Dr. Stein said, “It’s a continuum. When you stay on top of things you can provide the best care.”