It's a homecoming he has envisioned for years and a place he once called home and now reclaims again. As he and his family settle into their new community of Lake City, it's a destination that brings him full circle.
Since returning to his hometown, Tom Dudley, MD, PhD, is finding he needs little introduction. High school friends and long-established businesses remain intact. And since his mom, Pixie, never left the community, it all feels familiar and comfortable.
While he admits it's "good to be home," he comes with purpose. Dr. Dudley will soon join the medical staff of Gundersen St. Elizabeth's Hospital and Clinics in Wabasha as its orthopedic surgeon. Serving in an outreach capacity, he will provide orthopedic clinic and surgery services in Wabasha two to three days a week. His remaining schedule will be divided between Gundersen Winona and Gundersen Tri-County Hospital and Clinics in Whitehall, Wis.
"I have a soft spot for the Wabasha area," Dr. Dudley shared. "My dad (Stephen Dudley) was a general surgeon and family practitioner in Lake City and also served as a surgeon at St. Elizabeth's for nearly 10 years. He loved being a small-town physician and building longstanding relationships with his patients. He delivered lots of babies and touched many lives. His time was tragically cut short when he was killed in a car accident on his way to see one of his patients in Wabasha. The memory of that day is never forgotten."
The trajectory of Dr. Dudley's career path was inspired by the legacy and admiration he held for his father. An acumen for science and a desire to "fix things" were factors that led him to pursue a medical degree and specialty in orthopedics.
Dr. Dudley earned a biology degree from St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., a doctorate in physiology from Kent State University and his medical degree, residency and internship from the University of Minnesota. Following his education, he established an orthopedic practice in 2007 with Heartland Orthopedic Specialists in Alexandria.
"I enjoyed my time and work in Alexandria very much," he added. "My wife and I raised our two girls there, and my colleagues were great. I wasn't aggressively looking to relocate, but when I learned of Gundersen's acquisition of St. Elizabeth's Medical Center, I felt the timing was right to re-evaluate our future."
His decision was not only based on an interest to return home but to align with a rural healthcare organization that has the support and resources of a larger system. "The collegiality of a group practice offers benefits for me as well as my patients," Dr. Dudley explained. "I consider myself a general orthopedic surgeon with a broad skill set. When more specialized care is needed, I want the opportunity to consult with other team members that can offer another level of expertise."
Dr. Dudley's scope of care includes joint replacements of the knee and hip, arthroscopy, procedures of the hands and fingers, shoulder surgery and surgical interventions for fractures and trauma. He also performs a variety of injection therapies and other minor procedures.
"I look forward to helping my patients improve their quality of life and collaborating with my local primary care colleagues in Wabasha to expand our orthopedic services.
His first visit to Gundersen St Elizabeth's before accepting the position confirmed he is right where he should be. "Community connections run deep," he concluded. "On every floor of the facility I crossed paths with someone I knew - a former high school graduate, a lifelong friend or someone who knew my dad. How cool is that!"
Dr. Dudley will begin seeing patients in Wabasha on Wednesday, Dec. 9. Appointments can be made by calling the Clinic, (651) 565-5600 or referrals can be made through your primary care provider.
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