Dr. Michael Turner, ORA Orthopedics, shares the story of his military service as a Navy flight surgeon, the joys of practicing medicine in the Quad Cities, and the loss of his naval pilot brother in Operation Desert Storm.
Meet ORA Orthopedics Surgeon: Dr. Michael Turner
Hometown: Richfield, MN
Years in Practice: 38 years
Specialty: Total Joint Surgeon, ORA Orthopedics
Branch of Military Service: Navy
Why did you decide to join the Navy?
At the end of my first year of medical school at the University of Minnesota, I applied for the Navy Health Sciences scholarship. After I graduated from medical school, I did an internship at Oakland Naval Hospital in the San Francisco Bay area. Following my internship, I went to Pensacola, Florida, and trained to become a naval flight surgeon. In total, I was active duty in the Navy for more than 10 years.
Why a flight surgeon?
It sounds pretty cool! A flight surgeon is trained in high-altitude physiology. My first squadron was based at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. While stationed there, I met my wife, Lori. She was in the Navy as an oral surgery assistant.
When we met, I was from Minnesota and I discovered she was from Sumner, Iowa, so we felt like we were neighbors! I was in Cuba for a year, and then we went to Naval Air Station Moffett in San Jose, California, where I served as a flight surgeon for a P-3 squadron (which is an anti-submarine warfare squadron).
When I was deployed, I served not only as the pilots’ physician but also treated their families. I was basically the family physician for the entire squadron.
After I was a flight surgeon, I applied for an orthopedic surgery residency. I was accepted and spent four years in residency in Oakland at the Naval Hospital.
After my residency, I was also stationed in Charleston, SC, during the Persian Gulf War. I was deployed as part of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, assigned with a marine collecting and clearing company in Saudi Arabia. We were one of the first medical units on the ground.
I personally did not see combat, but my youngest brother, who was a pilot in Desert Storm, was shot down and killed in action on the third day of the air war. Memorial Day has a special meaning to me. He had a family — leaving his wife, Sherry, and 6-month old son. Charlie died on January 18, 1991. He was one of the “relatively few” combat deaths during Desert Storm, but every casualty is catastrophic to the families involved.
When did you begin your practice in the Quad Cities?
After more than a decade in the Navy, we had lived on both coasts and decided we wanted to move back to be closer to our families in the Midwest. I have been at ORA for 27 years, and we have raised our children here.
As a retired veteran, do you remain active connection with the military?
Yes, both professionally and personally, we try to maintain support of our soldiers and veterans. Personally, my wife and I support the Honor Flights. Lori was able to escort her father, who served in the Army during World War II, and I am on the list to escort a veteran for a future flight.
At ORA Orthopedics, we as a practice are grateful for the work of all servicemen and women. ORA has not only supported activities with the Illinois National Guard, but we also often treat the soldiers and personnel stationed at the Rock Island Arsenal.
What made you decide to choose to be an orthopedic surgeon?
I chose orthopedics because our patients are hurt, not sick. You can really impact their quality of life. It’s literally a hands-on practice.
It’s gratifying to be able to relieve pain and restore a patient’s quality of life after they may have suffered pain due to an accident, illness, or injury.
What inspires you most about your patients?
Everyone is so different. I appreciate them so much. It’s a privilege to be a part of their lives and help them get better. I’m proud and humbled to be able to do this.
What piece of advice do you wish your patients would take to heart?
As accessible and reliable as new joint replacement technology has become, it’s always good to stick with your original equipment as long as possible!