NEWS / BLOG
At Abilene Bone & Joint, our primary goal has always been to get you back to your desired lifestyle — your family life, work life, the competitive playing field, or your daily walk. At any age, meeting your expectations for successful treatment and providing excellent support for a speedy recovery are our primary focus.
James Nicholls – a physical therapist of many years with Abilene Bone & Joint – never imagined the profound impact a back injury he sustained in high school would have on him…long after he recovered.
A native of McAllen, Texas, James suffered a back injury while running. His recovery protocol included physical therapy, and James’ therapist – Tom Sprague – was instrumental in planting the seed of a possible career in physical therapy.
James worked with disabled youth via a local Easter Seal Society while attending the University of Texas Pan American. His strong interest in science and physiology, coupled with how much he enjoyed working with wheel-chaired-bound children, became the catalyst for his future physical therapy career.
“I loved seeing the kids’ faces light up when they accomplished tasks. It was so empowering for me – I can only imagine what it must have felt like for those kids,” James explains with a continued hint of pride and excitement in his voice.
As he worked with Easter Seals, James began to research and explore physical therapy programs. After applying to several schools, his final selection was the physical therapy program at Texas Tech University Health Science Center in Lubbock, Texas, a school James had admired and enjoyed visiting.
“Tech was incredibly fortuitous as it led to my knowledge of Abilene and subsequent employment there,” said James.
After graduating with his Bachelor’s in Physical Therapy, James began his physical therapy career in the Rio Grande Valley. The area provided limited career growth, so James was all ears when a phone call from a recruiter came about a position at Abilene’s then Big Country Sports. He had the opportunity to work with early mentors while there – both Scooter Phillips and Martin Caddell. After running the clinic for two years, James briefly returned to the Harlingen area before landing back in the Big Country.
Abilene Bone & Joint opened ‘Action Sports Medicine’ in 2004, and James was one of several who worked and treated patients. Now, as the last of original Action physical therapists, James still embraces the opportunity to work with schools and families in developing that side of the Abilene Bone & Joint business.
“Being involved with the sports programs of the Big Country and the respective families is a privilege I’m honored to participate in. The far reach of Abilene Bone & Joint has enabled me to make some lifelong friends – both personal and professional,” states James.
Each day is a different experience, coupled with his work’s autonomy, which is the best part of being a member of the Abilene Bone & Joint team. Even more than 17 years later, James finds his fellow ABJ colleagues more like family members.
James and his wife, Sandra, have two very active teenagers. Between the sports for Ava (age 13) and Alex (age 15), their school and family travels, the Nicholls stay busy. His involvement as a Big Country Soccer Association coach adds to James’s busyness with his family activities.
When asked about what someone would be surprised to learn about James, his answer was quick. In his early 20s, James and his best friend, Glynn Morgan, hosted a 24-hour tennis marathon to raise funds for Easter Seal Society. Having raised several thousands of dollars, James’ description of the event still has a great deal of pride in his voice when he explains the event.
We suspect that pride will be there for many years still to come.
Shannon E. Cooke, MD, was born in Kermit, Texas, a small town 65 miles west of Midland. His parents instilled the values of diligence, structure, and follow-through in Dr. Cooke and his sister. His father, a high school principal, emulated these tenants and gave Dr. Cooke a glimpse into the importance of mentors for high school students.
Even as a young boy, Dr. Cooke knew he wanted to pursue a career in medicine. He believes his experience as an orthopedic patient helped him identify his specialty. “Having been the recipient of care via a strong, orthopedic surgeon, I knew almost immediately this was where I could find my purpose,” Dr. Cooke recalled.
After his residency in Mississippi, Dr. Cooke and his wife brought their young family to Abilene, Texas. “Growing up in west Texas, I always embraced the culture this part of Texas offers. Being a member of a tight-knit family—both personally and professionally—is important to me,” Dr. Cooke explained.
Dr. Cooke was fortunate to join Abilene Bone and Joint, while Dr. Shannon Holloway was active. Dr. Holloway helped lay Dr. Cooke’s path to developing solid relationships with his patients and peers.
When asked if his career choice has met his expectations, Dr. Cooke answered firmly, “Yes and then some! I still find affirmation working with both the Abilene Bone & Joint team and our patients.”
Dr. Cooke also serves as the Head Orthopedic Physician for Abilene High School. Though Dr. Cooke no longer has children at Abilene High, he still enjoys participating in the formative aspect of high school athletics.
“It’s very fulfilling to watch young athletes become stellar on the field and compete at high levels. For many, it’s athletics that becomes an avenue for students to attend college and get a good education,” explains Dr. Cooke.
Dr. Cooke relishes helping his patients live pain-free. Someone can come in shuffling, and Dr. Cooke will facilitate healing so they can walk out without the slightest discomfort. His personal orthopedic challenges have provided Dr. Cooke a unique perspective on his patient care. Dr. Cooke’s own experience with rotator cuff pain lets him tap into empathy and a different perspective on healing. He learned sleeping tips and other tricks to manage pain, and he is glad he is in a position to help others with similar struggles.
“I’m humbled how people place their lives in my hands and trust me with their health. Each operation I undertake renews to me the depth of trust involved for the patient,” states Dr. Cooke. “And, later, when someone shakes my hand after a challenging journey through the healing process, I am at a loss for words because it reaffirms the relationship with a slight squeeze of the hand.
When he has free time, Dr. Cooke enjoys fishing, hiking, his hunting dogs, and reading. His reading favorites – history, theology, biographies – are often enjoyed while listening to classical music. However, in addition to his hobbies, it’s evident what Dr. Cooke enjoys most – and that is his family. Dr. Cooke and Becky are parents to seven children. All of the children are successful in their respective careers, yet two of them are following in their father’s steps of medicine.
Next time you see Dr. Cooke, you might want to ask him about his family!
Ashley Malone: An ABJ Team Member Worth Betting On!
Growing up as one of four girls, clinic manager Ashley Malone learned at an early age why being a leader involves more than just interfering when needed, but more importantly, strong leadership entails compassion and assessing the situation from all perspectives.
“My parents instilled a work-ethic in us that I treasure every day; I have strived to do the same with my children. That work-ethic, coupled with our faith, has been the cornerstone of everything I do – both in my professional and personal lives,” states Ashley. “Since my father was a Methodist preacher, we moved a bit. My sisters were, and still are, my permanent ‘friends’ regardless of where we are living. I cherish every one of my childhood memories with my family and especially my sisters,” explains Ashley. “My sisters and I are still close, and we see each other as often as we can.”
Ashley and her husband, Marcus, are both graduates of Abilene’s McMurry University. Their love for sports was a prominent aspect of their college lifestyle and their respective careers. Ashley began her post-college career as a coach and Marcus did too. Marcus is head coach of the varsity baseball program at Merkel. But the Malone family is not new to the Merkel community. A native of Merkel, Marcus grew up there and is now working in the same town. The Malone’s have made Merkel home for their family. Ashley even shared when they first married and were living in Merkel, she was only known as “Marcus’ wife and not ‘Ashley.’ Their family includes two sons: 14-year-old Logan and Easton, age 11 and their 3 labs – Shiloh, Remi and Burrow. And to no one’s surprise, sports and the outdoors are a regular feature for the family of four.
If one was to watch the Malone’s oldest son, Logan, they’d never suspect Logan is a cancer survivor. Logan has not only beat cancer, but he also beat his competition in 2019 at the infamous San Antonio Stock Show with his dark crossbred pig. ‘Tequila’ was named Reserve Grand Champion.
“Our boys have been fortunate to have the knowledge and insight of Future Farmers of America (FFA) in their lives. The foundation of hard work, dedication and responsibility is a great benefit the organization has infused into both Logan and Easton,” states Ashley. “They’ve learned to set goals, work hard to develop a plan to achieve those goals and not to give up – even when things aren’t going according to their respective plans. What a blessing it is to have these attributes; Logan and Easton will use them in all aspects of their lives.”
When asked about Easton and his activities, Ashley was quick to answer. “During Logan’s cancer journey, Easton was such a phenomenal source of support for not just Logan, but Marcus and me; it’s a ‘job’ he embraced with such compassion and empathy. Now that we are past the cancer treatment/journey, Easton is doing what any 11-year-old boy needs to do – playing sports and fishing.”
Ashley’s work at Abilene Bone & Joint mimics her upbringing of working closely with others. Ashley has worked for many years throughout the Abilene Bone & Joint practice in various roles. Starting in casting/bracing, then as a member of the team to assure a positive patient experience with the patient’s first interaction via the front desk.
These roles led Ashley to her role as Dr. Britten’s ‘scribe’ since he joined the practice in 2015. Working in collaboration with Dr. Britten, his nurse practitioner, Chris Vaughan, and many patients over the course of her daily work, Ashley’s attention to detail is paramount to the patient’s experience regardless of where they are within the orthopedic journey. Ashley managed Dr. Britten and Chris’ clinic, patient load and the related aspects.
“I loved working with him,” expresses Ashley. “I have been blessed by him (Britten) and Chris. There’s a great deal of time, sweat, and tears that have transpired working side-by-side with them. My time with Britten and Chris has been amazing and a complete honor. Although ‘Team Red’ will look different, it’s where my heart will always be.”
It just wasn’t Ashley embracing her role with Dr. Britten; Logan also made a statement of the role Dr. Britten has played with the entire family. Logan named a different pig, a Duroc breed, ‘Dr. Britten’. For those of us not familiar with that breed, they sport red hair…the common denominator between Dr. Britten and the Duroc.
As a 17-year Abilene Bone & Joint team veteran, Ashley embraces her role and her colleagues. When asked what surprises her the most of ABJ, she talks about the growth she has experienced. She was even an ABJ team member when their offices were on Pine Street.
The growth has also been beneficial to Ashley. Having most recently been named clinical manager, Ashley is now managing the practice’s clinical staff. When asked about her new role and respective duties, Ashley answers solemnly. “It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. I’m no longer working closely with Dr. Britten and Chris. It was at Dr. Britten’s recommendation and urging for me to consider this new opportunity. And on the other end, I’m excited and honored to have this new responsibility.”
Ashley readily admits any free time she and Marcus have is spent with their boys. In addition to their respective sports, the Malone family enjoys supporting the MLB’s Texas Rangers, the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, and camping. “Time with our kids is what we live for. It’s why we work…to spend quality time as a family,” explains Ashley.
Any additional time Ashley has, is spent on something many may not know or realize about her. Ashley loves to play her favorite ‘Three-Card Poker’ – a gambling table-game at many casinos.
We think it’s a pretty safe bet that Ashley’s role within both her own family and her Abilene Bone & Joint work family, yields tremendous winnings.
The health and safety of you, our patients, and our team members is paramount to us on a daily basis. We, just as other healthcare providers, were included in the initial round of vaccines and our dedicated medical staff and support staff to full advantage of it.
Per the current state mandates, if you have surgery scheduled in the coming months, you will not be required to have had your COVID vaccine. However, as it has been done, you will be expected to have a negative COVID test. Your medical team will advise on timing and other details.
Many of our patients and their families have asked us about where or how they can also receive the vaccine.
Both the City of Abilene and Hendrick Medical Center are offering registration. For your convenience, we’ve included the links to those via their respective logos, simply click the applicable logo.
As always, with any questions or concerns regarding COVID and its related tests and/or vaccines, please visit the CDC website (see below) or visit with your primary care physician.
An Artist at Work
A Fort Worth native, Chad was perplexed on where his college days would be spent. He looked and visited several large state universities, but his mother persuaded him to attend Abilene Christian University. And, it didn’t hurt Chad’s older brother, Kevin, had already attended ACU. The bigger challenge facing Chad was the decision of what exactly he was going to study while as a Wildcat.
“I thought about medical school, but after being honest with myself I realized studying wasn’t my best skill and I would need better skills to embark on as a successful medical school student,” explains Chad. “I had a few hospital visits in high school thanks to a football injury and I was intrigued with physical therapy, plus I was becoming more familiar with the role of a PT thanks to my brother, Kevin, who was a Physical Therapist. I eventually followed in his footsteps.”
Chad’s time at ACU was more impactful than just his studies. Chad also met his wife, Summer, while at ACU. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Biology, Chad and Summer moved to El Paso so Chad could begin PT school. It was during his graduate studies Chad was able to truly learn how to study and adopt those principles for his coursework.
With his PT license in hand, Chad returned to Fort Worth for a six-year period as a PT with Metroplex Sports Care (with his brother Kevin, and sister Teressa). Eventually Chad and Summer made the difficult but rewarding decision to return to her hometown of Abilene. After reviewing his opportunities, Chad took a position with Hendrick Medical Center and Summer eventually joined the faculty of Abilene Independent School District.
“My experiences in school and professionally have been full of ups and downs. However, they have provided me the ideal foundation for my medical career. Oddly enough, my experience at Hendrick exposed me to the culture and team at Bone & Joint even before I thought about joining here,” says Chad.
It would be a bit longer before Chad transitioned as an ABJ team member. With some research and wanting to learn more about medicine, Chad applied to the Hardin Simmons University Physical Assistant school and was accepted. The decision to go back to school at age 40 and with 3 kids was not easy. But with the support of his family, and a great deal of discipline, Chad graduated in the first class of the HSU Physician Assistant program.
Then in early 2020, Chad joined the Abilene Bone & Joint team. When asked what has surprised Chad the most about being a part of Abilene Bone & Joint, he answers strong and confidently the perceptive he gleaned from his time at Hendrick has been exactly what he has seen firsthand in his time with ABJ.
“Not only is the entire team a great provider of orthopedic services, the people here are down to earth, compassionate people. It’s just so comforting to learn firsthand what I had heard and seen from a different perspective, was exactly how it truly is,” explains Chad. Our patients, and our community need to know every single person on the ABJ team has their absolute best interest in mind – from the ladies at the front desk upon check-in, all the way to those in billing. The culture here is compassionate, caring and, make no mistake about it, real!”
Chad’s sentiments of what he enjoys most about his role with patients echoes what his fellow team members say, and that’s having a front row seat to watch the progress of a patient’s journey.
Chad works closest with Dr. Derek Padon, and believes Dr. Padon is very easy going, approachable, and is liked by his patients. Regardless if Dr. Padon and Chad are in the operating room, or reviewing the development of a patient recovery, Chad feels they make a good team and complement each other’s strengths.
When not working, Chad and Summer stay busy with their children – Ava, age 16, Pierson, age 13 and Sadie, age 9. Active members of Highland Church of Christ, the Walters’ family also enjoys traveling, snow skiing and other outdoor activities. But, if Chad’s not with his family, you might find him mountain biking or backpacking.
When asked if he believes any of his kids will follow in his footsteps of medicine, Chad says he would be thrilled because it’s such a great field, but in all honesty, he doesn’t think it will happen.
“If at the dinner table the topic becomes anything surgery related, they all boo and hiss at me,” laughs Chad. “However, right now my daughter Ava seems pretty enamored with television’s Gray’s Anatomy. I have to remind her that’s Hollywood’s version of the medical world, and it’s not very realistic. So, if she decides a career in medicine is in her future, it’ll be because of Gray’s and not me!”
As with everyone in the medical field – regardless of which aspect – has the need to unwind and find something therapeutic for themselves, and Chad has found his. Most would be surprised to learn Chad is an artist and enjoys drawing portraits of famous people. “Not only would it be a surprise for people to learn, but I draw upside down. I learned drawing upside-down forces the eye to have the advantage of the intricate shapes within the project or person, and not the entire being,” he explains in detail. “It’s a characteristic I use each time I pick up the pencil and begin my work.”
We bet Chad sees his work at Abilene Bone & Joint as artist’s work, too.
When you’re counting your daily steps, are 10,000 enough for you — or maybe too many? Learn how walking can help improve your health and how to set the right goal.
By Thom Rieck, Mayo Clinic
You’ve just gotten a new activity tracker and you’re ready to aim for 10,000 steps a day. But is that an appropriate goal for you? It all depends on your present fitness level and what you want to accomplish.
The average American walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day, or roughly 1.5 to 2 miles. It’s a good idea to find out how many steps a day you walk now, as your own baseline. Then you can work up toward the goal of 10,000 steps by aiming to add 1,000 extra steps a day every two weeks.
If you’re already walking more than 10,000 steps a day, or if you’re fairly active and trying to lose weight, you’ll probably want to set your daily step goal higher.
Benefits of walking
Why set a daily step goal? Walking is a form of exercise that’s available to most people. You don’t need any special equipment other than some supportive walking shoes. And there’s no need for an expensive membership at a fitness center.
Yet walking for regular activity can help reduce your risk of these common health problems:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Some activity is better than no activity
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking. But you don’t have to jump feet-first into the 150-minute goal. Start where you are and gradually increase your activity week by week.
Those 150 minutes a week can be divided in many different ways. Some people aim for 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Others fit in 10 minutes of exercise several times a day.
If your walking pace isn’t speedy enough to qualify as moderate-intensity exercise, those steps still help prevent the problems that can occur from sitting too much during the day. Adding any regular activity to your routine is beneficial.
How to include more steps in your day
Once you’ve determined your goals, try these ideas for fitting more walking into your routine:
- Take the dog for a walk. If you don’t have a dog, volunteer to walk dogs at an animal shelter. Or combine your activity with social time by joining a friend to walk his or her dog.
- Try music. A bouncy tune or something with a strong beat can make activity more enjoyable and help motivate you to walk farther or faster.
- Include the family. Instead of an afternoon movie, go for a walk or hike together.
- Go in person. Instead of sending a work email, walk to your colleague’s desk.
- Walk while waiting. Take a walk instead of sitting when you’re early for an appointment or waiting for a flight.
- Schedule workday walks. Put reminders in your calendar for short walking breaks to ramp up your energy throughout the day. Have a one-on-one meeting? Plan to walk and talk.
- Park farther away. Choose parking spots farther away from the entrance. If you take the bus, get off a stop early and walk the rest of the way.
- Take the stairs. Even going down the stairs counts as steps and burns calories.
How far will you go today? Your goal will depend on your starting point. But nearly everyone can reap the benefits of walking more, step by step.
As always, please feel free to visit directly with one of our team members should you have any questions or concerns.
Passion for Patients and Physical Therapy
Spence Southall has been a part of the Abilene Bone & Joint team for ten years, but there are just a few who have – if any – transitioned from patient care to administration.
A San Angelo native, Spence initially thought he wanted to be a child psychologist but was concerned he would struggle with keeping his work separate from his homelife, knowing he would likely hear tragic stories. Yet when Spence looked back on his high school and college football careers and some related injuries, he realized how much he enjoyed his physical therapist. After seeing a classmate on campus with a physical therapy-related sweatshirt, Spence went directly to the program to learn more, and thus began his studies in physical therapy.
“Physical therapy provided me the opportunity to stay connected to football and athletics – two of my passions,” said Spence.
Joining Abilene Bone & Joint in 2010, Spence’s love of working with patients – regardless of their ages – with their respective physical condition was a natural fit for him as a PT. After a few years, the ABJ practice manager position became open and Spence was very interested. He had remembered how impressed he was by the person who had the role prior, and Spence believed his own skills and capabilities would be a good fit.
“Transitioning into an administrative role has been eye-opening. I’m now helping tens of thousands of patients indirectly, and it’s very fulfilling. From insurance to other matters behind the scenes, I’m able to enable a solid patient experience in my role as practice manager. And, I have the best of both worlds, I’m helping with physical therapy 8-10 hours a week,” Spence explains.
What many do not know or realize is there are many moving parts to ABJ and most people are unaware of as a patient or caregiver of a patient. For example, one patient’s office appointment has close to nine ABJ team members facilitating in different functions behind the scenes, and Spence’s role is to assure it goes as smooth as feasible.
Spence and his wife, Callie, have been married for six years and are the proud parents to two girls: three-year-old Chayse, and one-year-old, Scottie-Kate. When asked how they met, Spence tells how Callie – who is from Eula – coached him on his batting technique that led to two home runs. They both have embraced Abilene and the Big Country; and they love how “there are more churches than bars” in the community as they raise their family.
When asked what would be most surprising about himself, Spence was quick to answer, “I’m a builder of furniture – cabinets, dining room tables, home furnishings. But my next project will be a different focus; I’m going to make a gun stock for my dad’s 42-year-old .410 shotgun!”
Spence believes the family atmosphere that has been created at ABJ has tremendous benefits to more than just the team; he feels the family atmosphere improves and enhances patient care…and we tend to agree.
Simple measures can relieve the pain of shin splints. Rest, ice, and stretching often help. Taking care not to overdo your exercise routine will help prevent shin splints from coming back.
Committed to You and West Texas Football
Don’t tell Randy Harriman – director of sports medicine outreach for Abilene Bone & Joint – West Texas is not committed to high school football. He’ll be quick to tell you the attitude among the residents of Big Country regarding high school football is some of the most dedicated he’s experienced in his time as a sport medicine professional.
“That’s probably one of things I’ve enjoyed the most about what I do; the passion west Texans have is unmatched to anything I’ve ever seen before,” explains Randy.
Joining the Abilene Bone & Joint team almost eight years ago, Randy has established himself with the secondary schools as the leading resource to access medical care for athletic injuries. It’s fair to say Randy is prepared to meet the expectations of the ABJ leadership to access athletes and their related injuries, having grown the outreach services since taking over direction in 2013.
“We’ve grown from covering 12 to 20 games on a Friday night; it’s a great challenge to grow the program and still have fun doing it” says Randy.
A native of Arkansas, Randy was struggling about a selection for his college studies since he was unsure what would be a strong fit for his skills, while doing something he enjoyed, too. A friend suggested Abilene Christian University and sports medicine; so, Randy headed to Abilene. With his undergraduate completed, Randy attended Mobile, Alabama’s United States Sports Academy for his masters.
There’s little question if Randy is enjoying his time with ABJ. And, when asked, his answer is prompt and confident, “these guys really believe in what we do, and they give me the resources to do it”. “Their confidence makes my job easier and more enjoyable.” With the new addition of surgeons – like Dr. Sagar last year – Randy says it keeps his responsibilities “fresh and exciting.”
Randy travels in the ABJ branded truck and puts quite a few miles on it considering he travels the entire Big Country 12-county region. When he stops for gas or to grab a bite to eat Randy says almost every time someone makes a positive comment about ABJ or one of the surgeons. Those comments re-affirm his commitment in his work and ABJ.
Randy and his wife, Amy, have been married 36 years. None of their three grown sons have taken the same career path, he says “They are doing other things”.
When asked if Randy had anything to add, he replies: “I am extremely blessed to still be doing what I set out to do 37 years ago.”
Have you ever wondered if you’re getting the most value for your dollar from your orthopedic group or imaging center?
Though the Abilene Bone & Joint team is recognized for their high-trained surgeons and staff, their value is equally remarkable.
An ankle sprain is painful enough…Consider the average out of pocket cost of an ER visit for an orthopedic problem is over $2,000 compared to $250 at Abilene Bone & Joint Prompt Clinic.
The savings for an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is not worth the pain in the neck at an imaging center or hospital. If you haven’t met your deductible you could be paying as much as $457 at an imaging center or $992 for an MRI at a Hospital compared to $158 at ABJ. We also offer the lowest cash pay price in town for an MRI at $400. And, in some cases Abilene Bone & Joint can get your MRI done the same day.
When it comes to having surgery, where you have your surgery matters! In a recent review of patient EOB (explanation of benefits), we found that the surgeon fee for a meniscus repair performed at Texas Midwest Surgery Center cost $2962 compared to $5,000 when the surgery was performed at a hospital.
Physician Assistants/Nurse Practitioners vs Orthopedic Surgeons: Did you know it is more cost-efficient to see a PA/NP in the office? If your insurance does not require you pay a co-pay you can save 15% by seeing a midlevel. If you want to pay cash, you can save 50%!
Many times, when it comes to your healthcare, not all facilities/providers are created equal when assuring you’re getting the most for your money.
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