Up Close: Dr. Thomas Lawhorne

There are plenty of things that run in families. There’s the typical hair and eye color, of course.

But, for many, career paths are also common. That is certainly true of the Lawhorne family, which includes father-son surgeons. It was the elder Dr. Lawhorne that inspired his son, Thomas, to pursue a career in medicine.

“I grew up in Georgia, near Columbus, and I got into medicine because my father was a surgeon, but he did vascular surgery,” the younger Dr. Lawhorne said. “I was more interested in the spine so I became a spine surgeon.”

He attended prestigious Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, for his undergraduate degree. Lawhorne followed that up with medical school at Emory University in Atlanta. He, once again, left his home state for his residency at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and a fellowship at Rush University in Chicago.

It was during training at these institutions that Lawhorne really honed his skills in minimally invasive surgery. That technique, he notes, is incredibly important when it comes to offering patients top quality care.

“It really is the same surgery that everyone else does but with a very small incision so it takes skill and a bit of extra learning to be able to do it. But it offers minimal down time for the patients and helps people recover faster,” he said. “It is really the next generation of spine surgery.”

While he did extensive training in various parts of the country, Georgia was never far from Lawhorne’s mind. And after his parents retired to St. Simons Island, he made it a point to move closer to his family. Joining up with Optim Orthopedics allowed him to do just that. The expansive health care provider offers a number of branches throughout the state to best serve patients.

One of those is located at 1111 Glynco Pkwy, Brunswick, where Lawhorne often works.

“I really had a call to come back home and down to this area,” he said. “Our practice is based in Savannah but we have someone at this location every day. We are pretty flexible as to where the procedures can be done, it all depends on what the patient needs and where they are but we can present different options.”

Lawhorne has developed a strong practice through the Optim network, where he treats a number of conditions. Many of those, he notes, result in pain in the legs or arms. Regardless of ailment presented, Lawhorne focuses on direct and clear communication with his patients. He feels that offering as much information as possible allows them to make informed decisions about their treatment.

“I think that when you see a patient, first of all, they are pretty scared. There’s something going on with you them and you don’t really know what is happening or why you’re having this pain it may not be clear what is causing the pain. So first of all, I sit down with them and go through everything with them. We look at the X-rays or the MRIs to show them what’s actually going on,” he said. “From there, we can look at the treatment options, which can vary … it can be conservative or more involved. Having that knowledge is is empowering.”

Lawhorne never pushes a patient toward surgery and is willing to explore all options on the table. Those can include physical therapy or injections, as well as minimally invasive surgery. “I want to present all the options to them. And, often times, we will try option A, then maybe option B,” he said. “We want them to have all of the information about the pathways we can take so there are no big surprises.”

When Lawhorne is not busy treating his patients, he can be found enjoying family time. The father of three enjoys spending time with his parents locally as well as hitting the links on occasion.

“I’m kind of a golf guy. So I try to relax on the weekends with the family and get in a round of golf,” he said.

From an article in the Brunswick News by Lindsey Adkison, Jan. 8, 2019.