KING CITY — Dr. Thomas Bosshardt recently joined the surgical team at Mee Memorial Healthcare System, creating a rotating team of three to ensure there is always a dedicated surgeon on call at the hospital.
Bosshardt lives in Arroyo Grande with his wife Louisa, and has previously managed a private practice group called Surgical Specialists Inc. in Santa Maria. Raised in small towns in Montana, Bosshardt is a third-generation physician and identifies with the needs of a rural community.
“I am excited about the opportunity to be here at Mee for a number of reasons,” Bosshardt said. “I grew up in a small farming town and was looking for a similar setting to that of my childhood. That’s what King City offers — a close knit, agricultural community where I can use my talents and ability to the benefit of the area. This position also offers the opportunity to practice surgery in a way that’s actually sustainable.”
Bosshardt was a Top Medical Graduate and AOA Medical Honor Society member at the UCLA School of Medicine, and is certified by the American Board of Surgery.
He received a full scholarship to medical school but passed it on, instead choosing to serve in the Navy for four years, where he worked as staff surgeon at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Guam and as general medical officer on an aircraft carrier during Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf.
Prior to coming to Mee, Bosshardt worked for 10 years running a very busy private practice focusing on surgery of the colon and rectum, and the surgical treatment of many types of cancers.
In addition, Bosshardt was a staff surgeon at Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria, and was involved in the development of a regional trauma center. This meant he was on call performing complex emergency surgeries sometimes through the night in the trauma unit.
Bosshardt also served as president of his medical group; the combination of which was a path to burnout. He began to seek a better balance of work and family life, and explored the transition to a locum tenens position — as a rotating physician — to improve his quality of life.
Locum tenens positions are a way to cut down on physician burnout and help surgeons live more balanced lives; a model that not only MMHS uses but more and more small hospitals are employing instead of a full-time staff that rotates in shifts. The schedule is more reliable and the continuity amongst team members and cases improved. In this way, a new MD doesn’t take over mid-stream.
“It’s good for patients and for doctors,” Bosshardt said.
Dr. Tim Watson, head of MMHS Radiology, had worked with Bosshardt in the past and reached out about the current position. He now has a set schedule and works as a team with Drs. Gilbert Flores and Thomas Unruh in meeting the surgical needs of patients.
“We coordinate with one another and prepare each other for upcoming patients and procedures. I’m very excited to be a part of this team and begin this new chapter,” Bosshardt said.
Rotating team of surgeons
Bosshardt joins Flores, who spent his general surgery residency at East Tennessee State University, graduating as a general surgery research fellow in 2003. He earned his medical degree from Universidad Privada del Valle in Cochabamba, Bolivia. He conducted research on “Effects of Trauma in the Elderly,” while at East Tennessee State University.
Flores worked previously at Mount Sinai Hospital, in Miami Beach, Fla., is bilingual in English and Spanish (with some limited Portuguese), and has been with MMHS for 13 years.
Completing a team of three skilled surgeons, Unruh spent much of his profession initially in Pennsylvania and nearly all of his private practice was spent performing vascular surgery, which included angioplasty, the surgical repair of blocked arteries. He later moved his family to Tulare, where he used the cardiac cath lab for many diagnostic and interventional vascular procedures. Today he focuses only on general surgery and has been with the organization for five years.
“We share this responsibility to be there for the community,” Unruh said. “It also means we get to have a more routine family life. We trade time on and off. It helps the physician stay sharp and we look forward to our work.”
Typical procedures involve minimally-invasive laparoscopic surgery, gallbladder removals, appendectomies, hernia repair, endoscopy for cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, some minor skin lesions, basic abdominal, some breast surgeries, and colonoscopies with polypectomies.
Most procedures are planned — even emergency appendectomies are somewhat pre-planned.
Patients primarily come through Primary Care Providers, Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners at local clinics or the ER. There are many benefits of having a procedure at Mee Memorial Hospital.
“Patients receive the same quality care as they would in big cities but they are closer to home,” Unruh said. “We are highly qualified surgeons, having performed hundreds of procedures. We have chosen this area to practice because we like the hospital and staff, we like the work and the patients, and we are happy to be here.”