Hitting a Hole In One

Eisenhower orthopedic physician returns patient to his golf game

Like many desert residents, Mike Laughlin, 81, lives and breathes golf. He normally plays up to four times a week, holds a single-digit handicap and has shot his age more than 300 times — the first time at 69, 12 years ago.

"golf was definitely my driving force for the surgery."- Mike Laughlin
But Laughlin’s back story sets him apart from most golfing aficionados — a 35-year history of developing and marketing golf course communities. 

He started to play golf seriously at age 13. “It’s always been my sport of choice,” says Laughlin. He became a caddy, a championship junior golfer and a college athlete. 

Laughlin’s first career out of college was as an Air Force fighter jet pilot during the Vietnam War. He flew 100 missions, for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross and seven Air Medals. He then worked as a United Airlines pilot until being furloughed by recession. During that time, he found his new calling on the ground.

He obtained his contractor and real estate licenses and, in addition to golf-course homes, built houses in the San Joaquin Valley. Whenever he had time, he picked up his clubs.

So, when the pain in Laughlin’s right hip became extreme, and he could only hit his favorite courses once a week, he knew he had to do something to maintain his level of play. “Golf was definitely my driving motivation for the surgery,” he says.

Turning to the experts
Laughlin tried physical therapy for a month, but it didn’t help. Fortunately, he knew about Eisenhower Desert Orthopedic Center (EDOC). His wife, Marilyn, had had a successful knee replacement with Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon Ghassan Boghosian, DO, two years earlier. Dr. Boghosian introduced Laughlin to fellow Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon Dustin Briggs, MD, a specialist in hip and knee replacement.

Laughlin was immediately impressed by Dr. Briggs’ bedside manner and his confidence. It helped that a few members of Laughlin’s regular dog park group also had been to EDOC and spoke highly of it. “I knew I was in the right place,” he says.

EDOC’s board certified physicians are fellowship-trained in all core subspecialties of orthopedics, including sports medicine, total joint replacement, spinal disorders, shoulder ,hand and wrist, foot and ankle, pain management, sports injury, and orthopedic oncology. “We have a strong team mentality,” says Dr. Briggs, “we are able to refer each patient to the subspecialty expert they need.”

In September 2021, Eisenhower Health completed a three-year, $68 million expansion of the David and Joan Traitel Orthopedic Surgery Center. Dr. Briggs says the 100,000-square-foot “one-stop shop for state-of-the-art orthopedics” is helping surgeons and medical teams do their best work.

Among the new offerings are an enlarged 11-bed acute postoperative care unit and additional eight-bed extended stay observation unit. Surgical suites are equipped with the latest technology, including advanced MRI imaging and robotic surgical devices. 

"We have a strong team mentality. We are able to refer each patient to the subspecialty expert they need."- Dustin Briggs, MD
“Robotic surgery — also called computer-assisted surgery,” says Dr. Briggs, “enables a surgeon to precisely control instruments and position implants through a minimally invasive incision. The main benefits for the patient are accuracy and predictability,” he adds, “with less variability in the outcome.” 

For Dr. Briggs, the new outpatient facility supports his goal “to help a patient navigate safely the entire process from pre-operative preparation to the surgery and recovery.” Equally important, he strives “to make each patient feel like they’re a VIP,” he says. “Everyone here receives the highest level of care.”

Helping people stay active
Staying active has always been a personal priority to his own mental and physical well-being, says Dr. Briggs. “It is immeasurably rewarding to help patients retain or regain that active lifestyle as well.”

At EDOC, all orthopedic patients are evaluated ahead of time to determine whether they are candidates for same day surgery or will stay overnight. “We want to get you back to the 3Gs as quickly as possible — golf, gardening and grandkids,” says Dr. Briggs. “And if pickleball or hiking is your thing, we can help there, too.” 

Laughlin’s pre-operative assessment rated him a perfect candidate for same-day surgery. Immediately after his hip replacement, “I couldn’t believe how good I felt,” he recalls. “It was fantastic.” He went home that afternoon and only needed minor pain medication. “I must have had the right people do the work,” he adds with a smile.

Laughlin obeyed Dr. Briggs’ instructions to wait at least six weeks before going back to the course but concedes he did “a little chipping and putting” in the interim. On June 7, he hit his first bucket of balls since April. On June 24, nine weeks after surgery, his hip strong, Laughlin went the full 18 holes “and shot under my age.”

“Recovery continues to be much faster than expected,” he says. “Thank you, Dr. Briggs!”

To learn more about Eisenhower Desert Orthopedic Center services, visit EisenhowerHealth.org/EDOC or call 760-773-4545