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Image of Dr. Paul Fry next to image of the Fry Family at a Groundbreaking Ceremony.

Outstanding Orthopedics

How Barton Health has grown into the powerhouse it is today

Since opening Barton Memorial Hospital in November 1963, Barton Health has continued to grow to meet the health care needs of the Lake Tahoe community and beyond, building a reputation for innovation along the way.

Over the last 55 years, the health hub has expanded from an undeveloped 6-acre lot to a state-of-the-art hospital with a network of departments, clinics and programs providing quality care in trauma, surgery, acute and chronic illness, family medicine, orthopedics and rehabilitation.

Serving an active outdoorsy community in the Sierra Nevada, Barton Health has received national recognition for its pioneering orthopedic and rehabilitation program, which has continued to expand and develop since launching in 1965.

The latest addition, the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness, is the realization of a shared dream for the future of orthopedics — and a reminder that progress takes time and the right team. 

ATTRACTING ELITE ATHLETES

As snow sports enthusiasts flocked to Lake Tahoe following the 1960 Olympics at Squaw Valley, the need for proper orthopedic health care dramatically increased. 

One such enthusiast was Dr. Paul Joseph Fry, Jr., an orthopedic surgeon, who, after years of visiting the region, decided to move his family to the South Shore. In 1964, he opened Tahoe Fracture Clinic, and as his practice rapidly grew, so did his team. In 1970, Dr. Richard Steadman joined Fry, along with Randy Watson, Edward Tapper and Keith Swanson. (Possible tie-in with U.S. Ski & Snowboard?)

The demand for sports medicine doctors and orthopedic surgeons continued to increase, and in the late 1980s, more partners came aboard, including Terrence Orr, Steve Bannar and Fry’s sons, Paul III and Michael.
“Dr. Paul Fry really got us going. He was the true patriarch of orthopedics in Tahoe, and you’ll see that if you look at all of the different doctors he brought in,” said Barton Health Tahoe Center for Orthopedics & Wellness Administrative Director Chris Proctor.

In 1976, Steadman became the chief physician for the U.S. Ski Team, and soon, elite athletes from all over the world came to Barton for treatment. Their support gave Barton international acclaim for getting athletes back to their optimal level of performance.
As word got out about Barton’s successful orthopedic and rehabilitation program, National Football League players and professional track and field athletes started coming to Lake Tahoe to heal, too. 

GETTING PHYSICAL 

Dr. Terrence Orr came to Lake Tahoe from Chicago in the 1980s for a six-month sports medicine fellowship — and he never left.

“I enjoy working with the skiers because they are at the pinnacle of athleticism. They take it to a higher level and are at the top of what they do,” said Orr, who worked with the U.S. Ski Team. “And snow sports is a lot of the reason why many of us move here, right?”

From the start, Orr involved physical therapists before and after surgery for his orthopedic patients as much as possible.

“Early on, we brought in an operating nurse and an athletic trainer to work with me during and after the procedures. Every person is unique and there a lot is is a lot going on inside the joint,” explained Orr. “Fifty percent of orthopedics is surgery and 50 percent is physical therapy. Physical therapy is a huge part in that consistency of care, and we need to keep the lines of communication wide open.”

It was this desire for continued, seamless care between practitioners that had the doctors thinking about the benefits of a centralized facility dedicated to orthopedics and rehabilitation. 

NEW STANDARD OF CARE

Chris Proctor came to Lake Tahoe in 1997, and while working for a private physical therapy practice, was invited by Orr to work with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams. Proctor traveled with some of the athletes, treating them on the road, before joining the Tahoe Fracture Clinic in 2003. 

“It may be the standard of care now, but back then it was innovative to treat the whole body and work as a team to do it. Patients really liked that everyone was on the same page, and we really had no clue that it was a different approach to what other hospitals were doing.”

It became especially apparent to Proctor how innovative Barton’s level of care was when, in the early 2000s, the wife of a top executive at Vail Resorts got hurt skiing at Heavenly and went straight to Barton’s orthopedic team.

“She loved that everyone was on the same page — that we coordinated all of the care from start to finish and didn’t send her off to the next provider and wipe our hands clean,” said Proctor.

Proctor recalls numerous conversations with Orr over the years about the desire for a dedicated orthopedic center — a place that would allow the doctors and practitioners to expand this sort of continuum of care to a bigger scale.

“We spent a lot of time going through the process of what the building would look like and what services we would offer, but it would’ve just been too expensive,” he said.

MOVING INTO THE MODERN ERA

In 2010, Tahoe Center for Orthopedics was formed and brought orthopedic services under one umbrella to create a cohesive team with consistent standards of care. With the opening of the new Center for Orthopedics & Wellness, it will now allow us to bring the team under one roof which will result in stronger integration and increased standard of care which in turn will allow our existing offices to utilize these same practices.

In 2014, thanks to a large donation from Lisa Maloff in honor of her late husband Robert, Barton Health was one step closer to building the orthopedic facility for which it had been hoping.

“Looking back to when we really started taking about this 14 years ago, it was a pipe dream,” said Proctor. “To receive notice that a community member is offering $10 million to see through your dream, it’s overwhelming.”

Today the 26,000-square-foot Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness stands as an example of the future of medicine.

In one building, physical therapists consult with orthopedic surgeons before sending their patient to the state-of-the-art rehabilitation pool followed by an acupuncture session if needed.

Spine specialists refer patients to on-site nutritionists or pain management experts. Athletes take the next step after rehabilitation and begin training through the Olympic-caliber ALTIS program housed in the Center.

“At the end of the day we need to get our patients back to where they were previously or better,” said Orr. “We need the complete picture on how to take care of people.”



An excerpt from "Orthopedics & Wellness" published by Barton Health for the 2018 opening of the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness. By Claire Cudahy and Kayla Anderson.