LIMA — When Mercy Health St. Rita’s physician and Spencerville native Dr. Jason Bowersock first went off to college, his main focus, besides academics, was playing baseball and experiencing life outside of his small hometown.
His interest in science began to evolve while studying as an undergrad at the University of Cincinnati, and it was from there he decided he wanted to be a physician.
After graduating from Cincinnati, he went on to Wright State University for medical school, where he met his wife, who happened to be from Kalida. Once he received his doctorate, it was common sense for him to return back to the Lima region.
“As you grow up, you kind of realize where you come from is a little bit better than what you think,” Bowersock said. “I am a small-town guy, and I wanted to be around my family.”
He’s one of several area doctors who felt the calling to come home after medical school. While area medical organizations work hard to recruit doctors to the area, some simply come home.
When Bowersock returned home, he decided to work for Mercy Health-St. Rita’s, where he hoped to explore various opportunities.
“From a professional standpoint, the hospital is big enough for you to do what you want to do,” he said. “I chose St. Rita’s because it’s a big hospital, and it allows me do a lot of things like minimally invasive surgeries with robots.”
Currently he specializes in general surgery, is a trial and medical director, general surgery division chief and a bariatric director.
“I hold a lot of hats, but that’s the one thing that I like about coming back here,” he said. “I get to do a broad base of medicine. We’re not a small hospital, and a lot of surrounding people don’t realize how good we have it in this area with not just St. Rita’s but with (Lima) Memorial as well.”
Although he had the opportunity to practice anywhere in the world, he is satisfied with his decision to return back to his hometown.
“You get to do a big volume of stuff, and I like it because I get to stay in a community that I really like,” he said. ” You kind of get the best of both worlds.”
Showing what can be done
Lima Memorial physician and Lima native, Dr. Jeremy Heffner, is another hometown doctor whose initial focus was not on becoming a physician. As a child he dreamed of being a pilot, and it was not until middle school that things changed.
As his passion for science and math evolved, he decided that bio-engineering would be the best fit for him. As he finished up undergraduate school, he was conflicted between going on to medical school or law school. In the end, he said he made a good choice.
“In all reality, I thought there was more to life than making money or solving problems,” Heffner said. “As a physician, you have the best of both worlds. You get to have professional success, but at the same time your success is predicated on having good patient outcomes and helping humanity.”
Heffner went off to the medical school at the University of Cincinnati and, through his fellowship at the University of Michigan, he said he acquired knowledge about cutting-edge technologies, something he hoped to enlighten doctors with when he returned home.
Five years ago when Heffner returned to Lima, he took a position at Lima Memorial, where he specializes in robotic surgery, trauma surgery, complex abdominal surgery, general surgery and vein care.
‘The luxury of being at Lima Memorial is that it’s a large enough hospital that we can do a broad breadth of surgeries, and we have all the technology that you would have at a major medical center,” he said. “But I have the ability to speak directly to the CEO or the executives and to make changes or to advance what we are doing is much simple because it’s not a huge bureaucracy that I have to work my way through to get things done.”
He is excited about his opportunity to be back home and to serve the community that once grew up in.
“People underestimate truly how well trained doctors really are in Lima,” he said. “When I came back here, I knew that we could do things that were cutting-edge technology, like the robotics program, that people in Lima believed we couldn’t do when I was growing up. I came back here to show people in Lima that that could be done.”
A doctor from the start
One of the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio founding members and physicians from Lima, Dr. Michael Wieser, is another doctor who said he is happy about his decision to return home.
Unlike Heffner, who developed an interest in college, Wieser knew that he wanted to become a doctor as a preschooler after his brother was severely bit by a dog.
“After that incident, the doctors could not pull me away,” he said. “The family doctor at the time saw that, and every time I would come in he would take me to the back and show me some things.”
Through the guidance of the family doctor, Dr. Wieser’s not only gained more information about the medical field, but he become more passionate about the medical field. He eventually went on to University of Cincinnati Medical School to further pursue his dreams.
While studying at Cincinnati, he learned how to fix fractures through placing rods in the bones, a substitute procedure for applying plates and screws to fix fractures. This was an expertise that he was able to offer OIO when returned back to Lima.
“A lot of the other doctors started doing that, and we often feed upon ourselves,” he said. “That’s one nice thing about a group of guys with expertise — we can all show each other different techniques. The new techniques that we bring to the Lima area actually help our patients.”
Driven to help local athletes
Dr. Mark McDonald, the CEO, president and chairman of the board at the Institute for Orthopaedic Surgery and founding member of OIO from Lima, could not better agree with Dr. Wieser. Just like Dr. Wieser, he knew at a young age that he wanted to be a physician.
It all started with a sports accident in eighth grade that resulted in a fractured ankle. Although this was devastating that there was a possibility that he would never be able to play sports again, he found a new a passion.
While receiving care from a doctor at a Columbus hospital, he became infatuated with how the doctor carried himself and was fascinated with the practice of medicine.
“I just truly fell in love with the job that he did, he said. “The whole idea of helping people and making people well from a really bad injury enthralled me, and it really brought me this great positive feeling. It made me realize that this is what I want to do for a living.”
Over a course of a year, he built a rapport with that doctor and made frequent visits to the hospital to gain as much knowledge as he could.
“I knew then that I wanted to be an orthopaedic surgeon,” he said. “I wanted to take care of athletes, and I would help athletes get well from their injuries, kind of like how they [the doctors] helped me.”
Dr. McDonald then went on to pursue his dreams at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. After receiving his doctorate, he was set on returning home.
“The whole idea in the back of my mind is that it would be really neat to come home and practice in an area and take care of the people that I grew up with,” he said.
When he returned to the Lima area, he was not only determined to practice in the area and take care of his patients, but he wanted to provide more to the community.
So Dr. McDonald, Dr. Wieser, Dr. James O’Neill and five other physicians came up with the idea to establish a self-contained, physician-ran, orthopaedic facility.
“That was a very ambitious endeavour because we had two really good hospitals, Lima Memorial and Mercy Health-St. Rita’s,” McDonald said. “But we thought that we had the ability to create this self-contained orthopaedic facility that would have doctors’ offices, MRIs, X-rays, physical therapy and also surgery.”
In March of 1998, the eight physicians opened the doors to OIO. Now almost 20 years later, the company has evolved into a health system that serves patients in over 13 counties and has won several prestigious awards over the years.
“This has become beyond our wildest expectations as to what we thought we could do for our community,” he said.
Motivated to come home
Fellow Lima OIO founding Member, Dr. James O’Neill, the nephew of well-known retired physician nephew of Dr. Jack Stechschulte, has a similar background as his colleagues.
In eighth grade, Dr. O’Neill broke his arm from throwing a baseball too hard and was treated by a doctor, who ended up being the precursor to the founding OIO members. The bond that he had with that doctor inspired him to want to pursue a career in the medical field.
“The doctor that took care of me as a eighth grade boy and being good at math and science is what turned me on to go to Chicago for medical school,” he said.
Returning to Lima from med school in Chicago was one his best decisions and he hopes aspiring physicians realize what their hometown has to offer.
“We have smart people in this community,” he said. “People who grow up here, go on and do special things. And I thought it would be nice to come back to the community and not be the brain drain and come back from the big cities, learn my craft and come back to Lima.”
Reach Camri Nelson at 567-242-0456 or at @CamriNews
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