orthopaedic surgeon David Bruce with his daughter, Camilla, a volleyball player for Baylor School

Issue 2, January 19, 2023

Professional Profile

W. David Bruce, MD

In 1972, David Bruce’s grandfather, a hard-working Opelika physician who stopped counting after he delivered 10,000 babies, was moved into a nursing home when he reached his 90's. Visiting “Doc” (as everyone called him), David saw all the people at the home in beds and wanted to help them walk again. David looks back now on his first medical job, and how it, too, shapes the physician that he is today.

"In high school I worked for a local orthopaedic surgeon. It was my job to get the family history, the backstory. If Aunt Sally was making pecan pies, the patient’s sister was entering college, or even who was related to who, I was to write it down for the doctor to review before he went into the exam room to see that patient.” It helped the surgeon not only remember the big picture with each of his patients but endeared him to his patients as well. "I learned a lot from him, mostly that each person has a story, a family, a background, and that part was just as important as their vital signs and physical exam.”

Drs. Helton, Smith, and Bruce at Ironman Chattanooga

40 years later Dr. Bruce still knows the story on each of his patients and it's a good thing:  many of the people he has treated count on him to take care of their entire families! We asked Dr. Bruce a few questions for today’s Threads:

  • How did you decide on orthopedic surgery?

That early experience aside, I was always the guy who wanted to fix stuff, to take things apart and put them back together again the right way. Orthopaedics was a natural specialty for me.

  • What is the best thing about your current practice? 

After 20 years in practice, I'm able to take care of patients the way they should be. The business of medicine is not as hard for me now, it's less distracting, and I can really focus on patient care. I'm back in private practice where I can make sure the care rendered in our office is the kind I would want for my family members.

  • What is your advice for healthcare professionals beginning their careers?

Realize that there are a lot of easier ways to make a living. You have to have a giving heart or you'll be unhappy in healthcare. It is challenging because there are forces not in your control: insurance companies patients not taking medical advice, business practices, and outdated policies. But despite all the bumps in the road, medicine is everything I ever thought it would be. It is the most rewarding profession because there is nothing greater than helping your fellow man.

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