From hospital orderly to hospital owner.
By Sondra Barr
For board-certified, fellowship trained orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Stephen P. Courtney, patients come first. It’s an ethos that developed early on in his life and one that has helped guide him in his journey to earn a distinguished reputation among his professional colleagues, medical peers and, most importantly, his patients.
Dr. Courtney began his medicine career from the ground up. While a teenager, he spent summers working in a rural north Louisiana hospital. As an orderly, he was an integral part of the hospital environment. While not a glorified job, cleaning bed pans, changing bed sheets, cleaning patient rooms, helping medical practitioners, and assisting patients, offered him an invaluable glimpse into the hard work and dedication necessary to succeed in the medical field. The job also served as the catalyst for his decision to pursue medical school.
Inspired by the patients he’d cared for there, Dr. Courtney made education a priority. He was salutatorian of his high school class and went on to graduate summa cum laude from Northeast Louisiana University. While at Louisiana State University Medical School, he utilized his summer to perform spine biomechanical tests on human spine cadavers utilizing pedicle screws. Considered cutting edge biomechanics and technology at that time, most spine surgeons didn’t even know they existed yet. However, Dr. Courtney performed one of the first biomechanical tests on those implants. It was a feat that earned him the Howmedica Biomechanic Award and the Louisiana Orthopedic Association Award. He also placed fourth in the World Congress for Student Research Competition.
Dr. Courtney’s residency at Texas A&M University Medical Center and further specialty training through a fellowship at Florida Neck & Back Institute in Gainesville, Florida, additionally cemented his strong medical foundation. From there, he continued to gain more knowledge and insight on how to help his patients with useful tools, while recognizing there was room for much improvement in the tools at hand.
This realization inspired Dr. Courtney to design, develop, biomechanically test, complete FDA testing and oversee quality control and validation on a host of tools he created. To date, Dr. Courtney has developed nine spinal product lines and obtained nine patents and 14 trademarks on spine related products.
When he’s not traveling the country training other physicians on how to utilize his products, Dr. Courtney dedicates himself to the patients of his own medical practice, Advanced Spine Center. Dedicated to developing superior operative techniques to treat neck and back disorders, Dr. Courtney leads a skilled team to care for patients with neck and back pain using a wide array of the most state-of-the-art tools and techniques––from conservative physical therapy and injection therapy––to advanced pain management, as well as surgical intervention.
“We employ the latest in minimally-invasive spine surgeries, in addition to cutting-edge replacement technology, incorporating both high tech and high touch,” says Dr. Courtney.
Dr. Courtney recently added another accomplishment to the lengthy list when he opened Eminent Medical Center. An in-network specialty hospital focusing on patient care, the center’s state-of-the-art technology focuses on utilizing minimally invasive techniques including the “Rosa” total joint robot. The only one in Texas, it’s the latest technology medicine has to offer and delivers spine care excellence utilizing dual digital c-arms and spine robotics during surgery.
The medical field is not the only arena in which Dr. Courtney excels. He approaches fitness with the same dedication and vigor he applies to medicine. In 2005, Dr. Courtney was in the top 10 of his age group in mountain biking in Texas. He also completed one of the largest cycling events in the country multiple times: the “Hotter’N Hell” race. Always up for a new challenge, from there, he began training to compete in triathlons.
“Swimming added a whole new challenge for me and really pushed me,” says Dr. Courtney of training for triathlons, where participants are required to bike, run, and swim. “I like to set goals, as it gives me more incentive to stay focused and helps me determine what I want to accomplish and work toward. Accomplishing my goal and finishing something I didn’t think I could do helps me push through.”
Dr. Courtney trains for triathlons with the same focus he uses as a surgeon. Waking up at 4 a.m. six days per week to work out in his home gym, he never waivers from the goal at hand––exceeding his personal best. After successfully completing multiple triathlons, Dr. Courtney shows no signs of slowing down. He continues to train and looks forward to competing in many more triathlons.
“I think if you can survive a triathlon you are absolutely living well,” he says.
Paying attention to fitness is something he encourages his patients to consider, too. “People don’t have to be a tri-athlete to be healthy. I like to tell people you need to start small. Do something to be active. It can even be yard work––that’s a great workout too. As you get older especially, you need to be in tune with your body, monitor your calorie intake and be active. I encourage people to change slowly, start small, and find out what you like to do,” he says.
Sharing his wellness journey is part of the straight-forward, honest approach that puts his patients at ease and creates a trusting bond, an important element for the highly technical operations Dr. Courtney performs to help restore patients’ quality of life. As he learned early on, the single most important person in the treatment process is the patient and well-informed patients are more successful in following through on their rehabilitation and have better outcomes.
It’s a sentiment that his patients echo. “You don’t want to trust (your back) to just somebody that has his name on a door. You have to go to people that you trust. I talked to people and everybody trusted Dr. Stephen Courtney and I do too and I’d highly recommend him,” says Judy Jones, a lumbar fusion patient of Dr. Courtney’s.
“Above all, I believe in treating each and every patient I have with honesty, dignity, and respect. My patients come away from our shared interactions feeling confident, assured that they are truly in the best hands,” says Dr. Courtney, who always brings his A-game.