Orthopedic surgeon, Rebound founder retires after 53 years

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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When Ben McGough first started practicing medicine, processing an X-ray involved film, a tank of solution and a heater.

Today, providers have digital X-rays that use computers and provide an image in seconds.

When McGough began practicing 53 years ago, penicillin was one of only a few medicines available.

Today, physicians have thousands of medications, name-brand and generic, to choose from when writing a prescription.

When McGough first started the Vancouver Orthopedic Group in the late 1960s, he and his partner, Dr. Bob Bump, accounted for half of the orthopedic surgeons in Vancouver and were the only providers in the practice.

Today, the practice is known as Rebound Orthopedic and Neurosurgery Clinic. The practice has five offices — a sixth is set to open in East Vancouver this week — 29 physicians and thousands of patients.

And today, after 53 years of working as an orthopedic surgeon, McGough, 79, is retired and devoting his time to working on his ranch in Central Oregon. He saw his last patients Aug. 25.

“I just felt like it was time,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed every day of my practice. I even enjoyed medical school.”

Early influence

McGough grew up in a small town in western Arkansas. As a boy, he idolized the town’s family doctor. As a young man, he knew he wanted to study medicine and open his own family practice.

At the time, surgery seemed like a faraway concept.

“The first time I walked into a hospital was when I went to medical school,” McGough said.

After finishing medical school in 1957, McGough enlisted in the U.S. Army and accepted an internship with the military. That internship exposed him to orthopedics and peaked his interest in surgery. He went on to complete his surgery residency and a fellowship in hand surgery through the military.

For two and a half years during the Vietnam War, McGough was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. As an Army surgeon, McGough performed surgeries on young, healthy men with severe injuries and in need of amputations.

In 1969, after 11½ years, McGough left the Army and moved to Vancouver. He joined Dr. Sam Osborn, one of four orthopedic surgeons in Vancouver at the time, and went to work as a surgeon.

Three months later, Osborn died from a heart attack, leaving McGough to operate the practice on his own.

In August 1970, McGough enlisted Bump, his friend and fellow Army surgeon, to join him at the Vancouver practice. During the next few years, McGough and Bump would bring in two other Army surgeons as they expanded the clinic.

Throughout the years, the clinic has grown and, in 1994, merged with the Vancouver Neurosurgical Group to further expand services.

Enduring philosophy

In the early years, the veterans instituted an equal partnership policy rooted in teamwork: everyone worked the same hours, took the same amount of vacation time, received the same pay and worked as hard as they could.

“We have continued with that philosophy,” McGough said. “It’s a big factor in our success.”

Rebound physicians believe in the team philosophy and will continue to abide by it, even though the clinic’s founder has stepped aside, said David Bennett, chief executive officer of Rebound.

“He’s been the heart and soul of the practice,” Bennett said. “He set the direction for the practice. He had an equal way about running the practice, a very collaborative tone that has endured because he has been here and he set that tone and that culture.”

As he enters retirement, McGough said the most rewarding part of his career has been helping people in the community — a place he’s grown fond of throughout the years.

“Vancouver’s been a great place for me to have come,” McGough said. “It’s a wonderful place to live. I can see why this county has grown so much. There’s so many good things about Southwest Washington.”

Marissa Harshman: http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com; 360-735-4546.