Blending legacies of excellence in orthopedic patient care
The 2016 creation of the Palmetto Health-USC Orthopedic Center established a hub of orthopedic expertise that is unmatched in the region, combining five practices from the Midlands and Sumter including Moore Center for Orthopedics, USC Orthopaedics, Premier Orthopedic Specialists, Orthopedic and Spine Surgeons of South Carolina and Sumter Orthopaedic Associates.
The rich histories of the individual practices, along with the USC School of Medicine, have built a foundation for patient-centered care, innovation, education and research that offers the best possible services for a growing patient population
A pioneering approach
It’s a journey that dates to 1928 when Austin T. Moore, MD, began his pioneering approach to orthopedics and opened the first orthopedic clinic in the region. The Moore Orthopaedic Clinic occupied a small converted office on Gervais Street in downtown Columbia, and orthopedic history was made in 1940 when Dr. Moore used a hip prosthesis he designed to perform the first hip replacement surgery in the world.
During the next 80 years, the clinic’s physicians would continue the excellence established by its founder as they helped patients regain their mobility, and the Moore Clinic eventually added other subspecialties, beginning with a hand surgeon.
Kim J. Chillag, MD, the senior member of the Palmetto Health-USC Orthopedic Group, joined the Moore Clinic as a junior partner in 1985 and has specialized in hip and knee replacement for 30 years. “Everybody in my era and in the time period before my era knew Dr. Moore’s legacy because every one of us [orthopedic surgeons] had put in one of his hip implants,” Chillag said. “He was in all the textbooks. He lectured all over the world.” Chillag noted that celebrities and TV personalities commonly traveled to Columbia for Moore to perform their surgeries, but he said Moore treated them “the same as everyone.” Chillag said that before Moore’s work the hip fracture was widely considered the “unsolved fracture.” Dr. Moore's innovations were enhanced even more when his junior partner, Emmet Lunceford, MD, successfully expanded Moore’s prosthesis to a total hip prosthesis without the use of cement and designed the first successful bone ingrowth total hip system.
Clinic growth and education programs
The growth at the Moore Clinic eventually was paralleled with formal orthopedic education locally with the opening of the first orthopedic residency program at Columbia Hospital in 1944. While the Moore Clinic provided the foundation for that program, Chillag said as residencies improved and became more structured, they needed to be with a university faculty. And about the time Chillag arrived in Columbia, USC School of Medicine started its orthopedic residency program.
In 1972, the hospital moved to its current site and was renamed Richland Memorial Hospital, later Palmetto Health Richland. USC School of Medicine accepted its first class of students in 1977, and four years later, Edward Kimbrough III, MD, left the Moore Clinic and founded the USC School of Medicine Department of Orthopaedics. The resulting partnership between the Midlands’ only teaching hospital and USC School of Medicine gave the residency program the benefit of full time, academic faculty, and the orthopedic residency received full accreditation in 1984 from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
As Palmetto Health Richland grew as an academic medical center, Chillag said it became apparent there were two big orthopedic groups practicing in the same hospital that probably should be one group to provide subspecialty care in every area of orthopedics “in a way neither could independently.”
John J. Walsh IV, MD, who joined the USC School of Medicine faculty in 1999 and served as department chair and clinical professor of orthopedics through the end of 2017, said when he arrived the school had about five surgeons. Currently the combined group employs 40 surgical and non-operative physicians. “The residents have a lot more access to surgeons and technical expertise,” Walsh said. “We are all committed to educating the next generation of doctors.”
Since its inception, the Palmetto Health/USC School of Medicine orthopedic residency program has trained 85 surgeons, many practicing in the greater Midlands region. This year marks the first expansion of the program, which has been approved to increase its residency class size from two to three new residents accepted per year. “It gives us tremendous resources to have faculty in all areas of medicine back up the faculty we have in orthopedics, so we’ll be able to utilize the medical school faculty for the parts of the orthopedic practice that need input from other specialties,” Chillag explained. “Working with the residents is the impetus for all of us to be on our toes.”
A unique partnership
The collective resources that make up today’s Palmetto Health-USC Orthopedic Center have created a unique blend of academic and clinical medicine. The partnership of the Moore Clinic and Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group, along with three hospital-based orthopedic traumatologists, has brought orthopedics in Columbia back to its roots. “I think the message is that we have a large number of physicians who are providing excellent care to the community,” Walsh said.
Such excellence will remain the orthopedic group’s collective goal going forward. “I want our group to be known for excellence in orthopedics,” Chillag said. “To constantly improve and be better than anybody else at patient care is what excellence means, and that’s what we strive for.”