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Mending the Hard ‘Knox’

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  • Written By: Helen Mansfield
Mending the Hard ‘Knox’

Long-time orthopedic surgeon Dr. Tom Knox’s practice marks 40 years in Mountain Home

For all that he has accomplished in his 72 years — both personally and professionally — Thomas “Tom” Eugene Knox has traveled extensively and has been generous with both his time and his philanthropic endeavors, locally as well as abroad.

Earlier this summer, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Knox of Knox Orthopaedics, marked 40 years of having his practice in Mountain Home.

In a hobby that seems to be counter-intuitive for a man that mends bones and repairs torn muscles and ligaments for a living, Knox is an avid off-road motorcycle enthusiast. He and his wife, Deborah, have traveled across the U.S. and Europe, seeing many of the world’s wonders behind the handlebars of a motorcycle.

And, as a one time avid runner and marathoner, he even competed in the 2006 Boston Marathon. His time was an impressive three hours and 25 minutes.

For as worldly and wise as Knox is, most people would be forgiven for not knowing that the kind-hearted and gracious doctor is more or less a local boy, having been born roughly an hour away in Thayer, Mo.

After graduation, he went off to the University Of Missouri School Of Medicine in Columbia. He performed his medical residency at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, receiving a fellowship to earn a specialty in hands at the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center in Louisville.

He met his lovely wife Deborah back in Thayer at Beck Theater in 1974 and they were married in June 1975. They have one son, Cortland, of Mountain Home and a daughter, Sarah, of Chesterfield, Mo. Both children are Mountain Home High School and University of Arkansas graduates. The Knoxes are the proud grandparents of two boys.

When his kids were young, Knox sponsored Sarah’s softball team and coached Cortland’s little league teams.

The couple ended up in Mountain Home almost by accident. Knox’s mother was living in West Plains and was sent here for medical care in the early 1980s. He was acquainted with her doctors, Peter MacKercher and Fred Turner, “who told me about the growing community here.”

At the time, Dr. David Sward was the only orthopedic surgeon in the community, so Knox relocated to Mountain Home in 1983 and joined up with Sward.

“I’ve had a good career here, watching the community and the medical community grow,” Knox said.

Former Mountain Home High School teacher Randy Flanagin became one Knox’s first patients through an accident. He had taken students from his AP biology course on a tour of the hospital when he fell and injured his ankle. He had the ankle splinted and later followed up with the good doctor who performed surgery, installing a metal plate.

Flanagin joked that in the years since, he has probably been too good of a patient, having undergone additional procedures with Knox; he’s had work done on both shoulders, had both of his knees replaced and most recently had his left hip replaced.

As Knox is so well versed in the knowledge of human mechanics, Flanagin said he “wants what’s best for his patients and expects everyone around him to do the same.”

Throughout his 40 years in practice, Knox has witnessed advancements in the orthopedics field with total joint replacements, seeing the procedures and materials lasting longer, so patients don’t need them redone so soon.

He performed the first arthroscopic shoulder surgery in 1987, the first to take place in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. He also performed the first rotator cuff repair in the area. He and the patient remain friends to this day.

Knox stays on top of the latest advances in the field, saying that in the last 18 months he has been performing “anchorless” repairs, using plastic anchors and “metal bits.”

“Everything old is new again,” he said. “It’s a cool thing and it makes the patients happy.”

Advancements by Drs. Chow and Agee have allowed for less invasive techniques for those undergoing carpal tunnel procedures, which Knox said he has been performing weekly since 1990.

“You make two tiny incisions from the inside out and the patient can move immediately,” he said.

He has also been able to attend yearly sessions at the Mayo Clinic, which are usually five-year cycles designed for educators teaching techniques surrounding the elbow. Such courses have helped him in treating those with conditions such as tennis elbow, loose bone fragments, bone spurs and arthritis — which allow patients a shorter recovery time and allows them to move more quickly.

Knox is always happy to see new patients and feels his personal specialty is working with patients who have seen other doctors and undergone treatments that didn’t provide the desired results.

He was selected at the Mountain Home Area Chamber of Commerce’s Medical Professional of in 2017.

Mountain Home banker and current Secretary of the Baxter Health Board of Directors Sally Gilbert said she has always been appreciative of the “outstanding care he has provided for myself and my children.”

“He is always seeking ways to improve patients’ outcomes,” she added. “His sole purpose is to provide the best care for his patients.”

Gilbert has served on the board for more than 14 years, having previously served as its president. She adds that both Knox and Deborah have “a generous spirit” in their long-time giving to Baxter Health, providing the physicians' workout facility and having made significant donations to the Donald W. Reynolds Library Serving Baxter County.

According to his long-time friend Mark Kemp, when Russian forces invaded Ukraine in early 2022, Knox started working quietly behind the scenes. Since the invasion began, it has been difficult to get such things as medical supplies to the people of Ukraine. Kemp’s friends named Edward Ma and Dr. Steve Orten who found a path from Krakow, Poland, across the border into Ukraine.

Knox and Kemp became friends over their mutual love of riding motorcycles. Knox has visited some of the former Soviet Bloc countries over the years by motorcycle.

“After Mark talked to me, I thought I could help with implants for traumatic fracture care,” Knox said previously.

In his first shipment to Ukraine, he sent over orthopedic plates and screws that he had received from the Stryker company to help those with long-bone fractures — such as in the forearms and legs — the kind of injuries that need immediate attention. One set of these plates has the potential to help 30 to 40 people, depending on their injuries.

Looking ahead, Knox said his health is good and that he’d like to put at least three more years into his practice before hanging up his bone saw. His other hobbies include photography, canoeing and fly fishing.

“I’ve been privileged to treat people 100 miles in any direction of Mountain Home,” he said.

Knox Orthopaedics is located at 3 Medical Plaza in Mountain Home. For more information, call (870) 424-3400.

Helen Mansfield, The Baxter Bulletin | Friday, September 22, 2023