This past winter may have seemed relatively average to longtime Puget Sound residents, but for Dr. Richard McLaughlin, it was the warmest of his life, “by a large margin,” he notes. The Chicago native has spent most of his life thus far in the Midwest, apart from a fellowship at the University of Washington Medical Center. He is the most recent addition to the team of physicians at Olympia Orthopaedic Associates (OlyOrtho).
McLaughlin will be specializing in shoulder and elbow surgeries at OlyOrtho, procedures that typically have positive outcomes and make a significant difference for patients. According to studies, surgeries for open rotator cuff repairs have a success rate as high as 97%, and total shoulder replacements have a 10-year survival rate of up to 90%. Patients typically are able to return to the activities of daily living and low-impact sports without pain and with a high level of functionality.
Many candidates for total shoulder replacements are older people suffering from severe pain due to degenerative arthritis. “Often those with shoulder arthritis can’t sleep at night because as soon as they roll on that shoulder, it wakes them up,” McLaughlin says. “Shoulder replacements are relatively quick and efficient, and overwhelmingly, patients do very well. Their functions are restored, and the pain is essentially gone after the first few weeks. Being part of that whole process from start to completion is incredibly rewarding.”
McLaughlin’s first experience with orthopedics was as a patient, or as he puts it, “a kid with broken bones.” In medical school, experiences with mentors who performed shoulder replacements and surgeries made an impression and drew him toward his current practice. “Orthopedics is a bit unique,” McLaughlin points out. “You get to fix things as opposed to just managing patients. That was always appealing to me.”
After completing his medical degree at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, McLaughlin finished a residency at the Mayo Clinic and then his fellowship at UW Medical Center, so he is not completely new to the region. His partner Tasha, a urology oncologist, currently finishing a fellowship at Virginia Mason, is originally from Seattle. “Part of the reason we came here is that she has family in this area, and it’s a chance to be close to them,” he explains.
The couple loves hiking and exploring the outdoors, along with their latest acquisition, a 9-month-old, 80-pound malamute puppy. “We’ve done quite a few hikes on Saturday mornings,” says McLaughlin. “Our puppy is getting to the point where we can take him on some shorter ones, so it’s really exciting.”
The other draw to the region was the appealing nature of OlyOrtho’s physician-owned practice. In larger organizations that are theoretically autonomous, physicians often end up with little say in how the practice functions, McLaughlin observes. Nearly half of the physician practices in the U.S. are owned by hospitals or corporate entities.
“Olympia Orthopaedic Associates is a true private practice model,” he maintains. “They have a lot of autonomy and control over how they practice, and they’re a very well-trained group. It was an opportunity to work with a great team of surgeons.” In addition to McLaughlin, OlyOrtho has six doctors who operate on shoulders and five who focus on elbows.
During his residency and fellowship, McLaughlin has performed surgeries for shoulder replacements that went badly and required revision or became infected as well as more common torn rotator cuffs and other issues like dislocations and tennis elbows. He’s seen the difference it makes for patients who suddenly have a much better quality of life. “They generally don’t have a significant amount of pain after surgery,” he says. “Usually, they’re incredibly happy with life. As a physician, that’s definitely an aspect that keeps me coming back.”
Now he’s looking forward to working with the team at OlyOrtho in his first role as an attending physician. “It’s a chance to develop a subspecialty-specific practice and do shoulder and elbow surgery with a group that values autonomy,” he says. “This will allow me to bring the skills that I’ve spent a long time developing to the table. It’s a phenomenal opportunity, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Learn more by visiting the Olympia Orthopaedic Associates website or calling 360.570.3460.