Officials at Fulton Medical Center recently made a key hire in their pursuit to expand offerings.
Dr. Daniel Slawski, an orthopedic surgeon who comes from the University of Nebraska-Kearney, was introduced to the Rotary Club of Fulton on Wednesday, and he is hoping to build an orthopedic treatment program to help Callaway County residents.
"Hopefully, we'll give referring physicians and members of the community a known entity they can go to all the time," he said. "The ultimate goal is to have someone in Fulton at least three to four days a week and begin to expand the services."
Slawski is a native of Florissant who did his medical training at Washington University in St. Louis. He said he is no stranger to creating thriving programs from nothing.
"After my residency, the Air Force recruited me to create a sports medicine program," he said. "My goal in my job was to develop the program from scratch. It took us about four years, but by the end, it was very successful."
After his experience creating the program, Slawski teetered on whether to return to St. Louis and be involved in the academic realm of medicine. He eventually decided against it.
"I realized I really liked starting something from scratch and watching it grow," he said. "So I began looking around the country, and an opportunity in Nebraska came up a little over 20 years ago to set up a rural outreach program for sports medicine that would be throughout all of central Nebraska."
Central Nebraska, which was extremely underserved by medical professionals at the time, was a very interesting location to set up his next project, Slawski said.
"If anybody's familiar with central Nebraska, it's very full of wide open spaces," he added. "If you put your (car) radio on search — if you get into the sand hills — you can watch it continually dispend, and it will never get to a station."
The ultimate goal in Nebraska was to provide medical care to those who would generally travel to Denver, Lincoln or Omaha for medical care, trips which could take up to six hours.
When Slawski started working in Nebraska, it was a one-man show he would eventually develop into a respectable program.
"The first three years I was by myself with the program developing it," he said. "By the time we were done, there were eight of us and we had athletic trainers going to 50 high schools in Nebraska and Kansas. And we had a referral area about the size of Indiana."
Last year, when Slawski decided it was time to retire from his position, wise money saving habits allowed him to keep his promise to his wife that life would slow down a bit.
"My wife is a kindergarten teacher now, but she was a portfolio manager and banker," he said. "Before we had two nickels to rub together, she put us on a retirement savings program."
According to Slawski, the plan was always to return to Missouri for retirement. He had planned on pursuing a history degree at the University of Missouri when he received a phone call with an interesting prospect.
"A friend called me up and asked me if I was interested in doing a day or two a week," he said. "Once I met the chairman, he said there was an opportunity suited closer to what I did in Nebraska, and that was here in Fulton."
The practice in Fulton, part of the Fulton Medical Group, will be part of an effort to provide more orthopedic services to Callaway County residents.
"This will be the only place I practice," he said. "I will be here two days a week and develop a program where people won't have to travel to receive orthopedic care."
His background, Slawski added, has been very beneficial concerning the patients he has seen so far in Fulton.
"My background is sports medicine; in my practice, I do 95 percent of what I did when I was in sports," he said. "Not only on athletes but on adults, weekend warriors and farmers. We had a lot of agricultural injuries; with Nebraska, corn is king."
Having dedicated his career to sports injuries, Slawski said he is well versed in overuse and traumatic injuries involving the shoulder, knee and ankle. He is thrilled to use his expertise to help the community.
"I'm just glad to be here, and we are enjoying settling in," he added.
In addition to the hiring, Michael Powell, CEO of Fulton Medical Center, who introduced Slawski to Fulton Rotary Club members Wednesday, said there have been many recent improvements to the clinic.
"The last 12 to 18 months, we've made several upgrades," he said. "We've renovated the operating rooms and purchased all new surgery equipment."
The improvements, Powell said, have been received positively by patients.
"The last month the ER had a 97-percent satisfaction score," he said. "They fill out a survey on an iPad right as they leave. The results are in real time."
Along with Slawski, Fulton Medical Center officials have been working to recruit other people to help lead the company.
"We've hired a brand new chief operating officer, physical therapist," Powell said. "And are currently recruiting a new physician for our family clinic."