Dr. Dave Hightower was born and raised in Fairbanks and Anchorage, and when he got to Juneau, he found an extremely active population.
“One of the things I thought was remarkable was that you guys are a hearty bunch,” Hightower said. “Most people are active, they’re doing a lot of stuff, and what comes with that is a lot of sports-related type of injuries.”
Fortunately for Hightower — whose full name is Charles David Hightower — repairing those injuries is his business. Hightower, 40, has been an orthopedic surgeon and doctor in Alaska for years and recently opened his own practices in Anchorage and Juneau. The practices, called Enhance Orthopedic Surgery, aim to provide another option for people in those communities.
In Juneau, Hightower said, the demand for orthopedic care is fairly high. Demand across the country is high, as the baby boomer generation ages and needs joint care, medical experts have said. The doctors at the Juneau Bone and Joint Center have been serving the local community for years, and Hightower said he hopes to provide patients with another option.
“I think everyone’s doing good orthopedics,” Hightower said. “The big thing is, there’s a fairly strong need in the community. I think when those needs are present, there are going to be needs for different ways of looking at the problem.”
Hightower’s path to Juneau winds through Alaska with stops at Western Washington University and Columbia University. He then attended the University of Minnesota Medical School and did his residency there.
He and his wife then moved back to Alaska, where he ran the Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) Orthopedic Surgery Department for five years. At the ANMC, Hightower traveled all around the state and saw how many people had such dire needs for access to treatment.
He currently works out of an office near the airport, sharing a spot with the Aurora Chiropractic Center, run by Dr. Steven Messerschmidt. Hightower splits his time between Anchorage and Juneau, and said he’s considering being in Juneau full-time if there’s enough demand for his services.
“I think the guys in town are good guys. I think adding a little more access to people, people have been appreciating that so far,” Hightower said. “My hope is if it turns into something that people are enjoying here, it will be more of my home base and I can do more stuff intermittently as it needs to be done back in Anchorage.”
Hightower’s proud of another aspect of his practice: the technology.
On Thursday, Hightower sat in his office in front of a large screen that displayed a screensaver of a virtual view of the Dubai skyline. Hightower grabbed a tablet and quickly, the image on the screen went from Dubai to a virtual view of a human knee. With a wave of his finger, Hightower could switch to a different view of the knee, simulate a fracture or simulate a procedure to repair a ligament.
Hightower uses a technological approach called Technology Cost Management (TCM) that helps patients track the status of their bones and joints. The on-screen demonstrations give people an up-close, easy-to-understand look at what exactly is going on under their skin. He can save the demonstrations and give them to patients or send them to family members who can’t make the appointments.
Enhance Orthopedic Surgery is the first practice in Alaska to use this kind of technology, Hightower said. The practice’s website, www.enhanceorthopedicsurgery.com, states that the practice will also be employing TCM technology that can evaluate a patient without having to do an MRI, thus saving patients money. Perhaps even more valuable than that, Hightower said, is ensuring patients understand their injuries and feel comfortable with their treatments.
“Patient education is a huge part of my practice,” Hightower said. “The business that we have, it’s a lot about patient one-on-one time.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.