Dr. Clark Metzger, West Florida Medical Group
This month, IN talks with Dr. Clark Metzger, an orthopedic specialist with the West Florida Medical Group. Dr. Metzger has been practicing spinal and neck care for more than 20 years and recently moved back to Pensacola to work with West Florida Hospital after owning a private practice in Andalusia, Ala.
IN: What is your background?
Metzger: I went to the University of Tennessee before going to the University of South Alabama for my internship and four years of orthopedic training. I always wanted to get into spinal treatments, so I went to the University of Pittsburgh to be part of their fellowship program.
IN: Why did you want to be a doctor?
Metzger: My father was a family practice doctor and would take me on rounds as a kid. I’ve always been more mechanically inclined, and I really liked the technical aspects of spines.
IN: What makes the technical aspects of the job gratifying to you?
Metzger: Spine patients are usually in a lot of pain. To get pressure off of a nerve root relieves a lot of their pain instantly, which is instant gratification for me. Also, I think spinal care is a lot more challenging than other fields.
IN: When did you come to West Florida Hospital?
Metzger: I worked for West Florida from 1991-1996 before moving to have my own practice in Alabama. My family still lived here on the beach, but I did not begin practicing here again until last December.
IN: What types of injuries do you typically treat?
Metzger: Neck and arm pain and back and leg pain. Most people without arm pain are treated without surgery.
IN: How often is surgery needed for ailments?
Metzger: About 80 percent of people who have neck or back pain can usually be treated with physical therapy. My job is to determine if they are candidates for surgery and give them the potential benefits and let them make the decisions. I basically never tell people they need surgery.
IN: What are some tips to avoiding spinal problems as one gets older?
Metzger: The biggest thing you can’t control is heredity. Then you have smoking, where a person has two times the risk of not healing a fusion. Once you have a neck problem, you need to be careful how you lift things. Of course, there are a lot of things you can do that are friendlier to your back.
IN: How has the orthopedic field changed since you started?
Metzger: The biggest changes have been the expansion hardware improvements and the products that promote bone health such as protein supplements. Lumbar surgery has not been quite as successful yet and disc replacement surgery will be better in the future.
IN: What is your most memorable patient or funny story?
Metzger: I had a patient that had a hip fracture back in the ’90s who came in for a follow-up and later asked if she would be good to drive home. She was usually with her daughter, but this time she wasn’t. Half an hour later, her daughter called irate asking, “How did you let her drive? She’s legally blind.”
IN: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Metzger: Anything to do with the water and anything with a motor. I love classic cars and motorcycles, and I like to overnight on our boat with the family. I’m 51 years old, but behave like a teenager.
Dr. Clark Metzger,
West Florida Medical Group
2121 E. Johnson Avenue, Suite 106