Fixing your funny bone
Published on: 03/17/04
The surgery professor met “The Nutty Professor,” and together they hatched a plan to help people in pain waiting to see the doctor.
What if, comedian Jerry Lewis asked Emory’s Dr. Scott Boden, patients in chronic pain had a waiting room where they could laugh instead of cry or wince? Where nice ladies and gentlemen could watch old “Honeymooners” episodes or Abbott and Costello or even “The Nutty Professor” and “Cinderfella”?
Boden was one day away from signing off on the final plans for Emory University’s new Orthopaedics & Spine Center, which will be dedicated officially today. With one little squiggle mark, Boden tore down a wall between two offices on the blueprint, and the Jerry Lewis Healing Theater, which may be unique among doctor’s offices waiting rooms, was in the works.
Today, the 78-year-old comic legend, who’s suffered his share of back problems, will be at the official grand opening of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center, of which the healing theater-waiting room is a centerpiece.
“I met Jerry about a year ago, and we just sort of hit it off,” said Boden, an orthopedics professor and director of the center. “And he mentioned he’d always had this dream of one day having a waiting room that would be a cheery place, sort of a ‘laughter is the best medicine’ sort of thing. And we just worked it out. It’s just amazing.”
The $12 million free-standing clinic is about far more than the theater to Emory Healthcare, however. It signifies a new entrance by Emory into the Atlanta orthopedics market and to orthopedics research. It’s not solely academic, either. Orthopedics is the fifth-largest moneymaker from surgeries for hospitals, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
The specialty, which treats bones, joints and muscles, is expected to grow even more as baby boomers age; the AAOS predicts growth of about 7 percent a year for the near future.
“It’s a very interesting thing. If you look at my grandparents’ age, they just accepted aging. But now, baby boomers are not willing to slow down,” said Dr. Michael Schaufele a physiatrist, or nonsurgical orthopedist, at Emory. Obesity, too, is playing a role in the growth of the specialty, the doctors said, as excess weight causes back and joint problems throughout the body.

Large clinics like Peachtree Orthopedic Clinic and Resurgens have long been leaders in metro Atlanta, and Piedmont Hospital’s orthopedic staff numbers more than 30. “I think it will create some closer competition, but we’re up to the challenge,” said Nina Montanaro, Piedmont Hospital spokeswoman.
The Emory clinic will have 26 doctors, Boden said. Among its features will be a sports medicine clinic with a special, private waiting room for celebrity athletes, filmless x-rays and a spine center. Boden is expecting a surge in patient visits, from 65,000 at Emory’s former location on North Decatur Road to 100,000 patients at the new clinic this year.
Many of them will wait in the theater, with 15 red-leather stadium-style seats, a carpet that has Lewis’ likeness woven into it and a plasma-screen TV to show old comedies. Pictures of some of the world’s greatest comics hang on the walls. There’s also an option for people who don’t want to watch the scheduled feature; four carrels behind the stadium seats will have small, private screens where patients can choose a film to watch.
“This is not intended to be a shrine to Jerry Lewis; it’s a place of laughter and healing for anyone,” Boden said. Even though the center will be officially dedicated today, doctors have been seeing patients in some departments since Dec. 29.
Jay Knox, 38, of Avondale Estates has been to the clinic twice for chronic neck and back pain. “It’s incredible,” Knox said. “This is my second time through with this, and it is so nice to go in, park right there, not to have to go from place to place. And the waiting room chairs are incredible. It was like wow, I can’t believe I don’t have to sit in chairs that will make my back feel worse.”
Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ajc.com

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