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News | Dec. 19, 2023

Team Captain: Nellis Chief of Surgery Leverages Sports Background to Lead Surgical Cadre

By Robyn Stulgaitis

As a former defensive end for the Air Force Academy Football Team, Maj. (Dr.) Fortune Egbulefu has a special interest in orthopedic medicine. Now an orthopedic surgeon and Mike O’Callaghan Military Medical Center’s Chief of Surgery, Egbulefu provides leadership to MOMMC’s surgical staff and state-of-the-art care to beneficiaries and veterans.

Egbulefu’s drive to become an orthopedic specialist has deep roots. Growing up in Texas where football reigns supreme, Egbulefu excelled in the sport and went on to play for the Academy, where he studied biology with plans to attend medical school. Beyond the gridiron, Egbulefu also had early exposure to medicine. When his mother, a nurse on a cardiac unit, could not find childcare she took him to work with her.

“I would watch the doctors round and thought it was cool,” Egbulefu said. “So, I kind of grew up around medicine.”

Combining his passion for athletics with his professional goals, Egbulefu pursued a career in orthopedics.

“Football absolutely pushed me into orthopedics,” said Egbulefu. “I had teammates who would experience injuries and be seen by ortho. It was interesting to see someone go from being injured, having surgery, rehabbing, and coming back.”

Attending medical school at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Egbulefu completed both a residency and fellowship in orthopedic surgery. Now bringing his skills and experience to Nellis Air Force Base, Egbulefu specializes in hip and knee surgeries.

Egbulefu has also pioneered a hip and knee robotic surgery program at MOMMC, a new technology not widely available in the Las Vegas valley. The innovative technology allows MOMMC surgeons to create a personalized surgical plan prior to making an incision.

“It’s like a pre-flight plan. We have a good idea of what to expect and can adjust,” said Egbulefu.

During surgery, the robotics assist surgeons in making more precise cuts, down to the millimeter. This helps Egbulefu reach his goals of having his patients feel better than they did before surgery.

“In my personal experience, patients regain range of motion two to three times faster when a surgery is performed robotically,” he said.

Beyond Egbulefu’s specialty in hip and knee surgeries, the MOMMC Orthopedics team includes spine, shoulder, elbow, hand, foot, ankle, and sports medicine specialists. The physicians work together to provide high-quality orthopedic services to beneficiaries and veterans.

“We have an exceptional group of surgeons here with amazing bedside manner,” said Egbulefu. “We support each other. If we have a tough case, we work together.”

Egbulefu credits his years of playing a team sport to the teamwork environment he fosters as Chief of Surgery.

“Playing a team sport directly relates to being a physician at MOMMC,” said Egbulefu. “Similarly, you have to work with different personalities, overcome your differences and achieve an objective collectively that you could not obtain independently.”

Col. (Dr.) Kory Bodily, commander of the 99th Surgical Operations Squadron, also acknowledges the teamwork approach that Egbulefu brings to clinical practice.

“[Egbulefu’s] sports background doubtless taught him that nothing worth having ever comes easily,” said Bodily. “I think everyone he leads finds his leadership approach refreshing.”

Beyond TRICARE beneficiaries, Egbulefu and the orthopedic surgery team can care for Veterans Administration (VA) patients when referred by their primary care manager, a benefit made possible through a Resource Sharing Agreement. The agreement extends certain specialty and hospital care services to the local veteran community. This allows Egbulefu to perform complex hip and knee replacement revisions, a service currently unavailable at the VA.

Not only does this benefit veterans in need of orthopedic care, but it also allows MOMMC surgeons and staff the medical readiness experience needed to maintain their skillset.

“As a surgeon, I need to be operating to maintain my readiness,” said Egbulefu. “Let’s do more surgeries.”

Egbulefu credits his teammates for the exceptional care he and his fellow physicians offer their patients.

“We can’t do anything without our nurses, and our technicians are the foundation of everything,” he said. “If you’re a patient here, you have a team behind you.”
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For more information about services offered at Mike O’Callaghan Military Medical Center, please visit nellis.tricare.mil
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