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Mid-Sized Business of the Year: OAK puts athletes, and the rest of us, back together

April 6, 2019

OAK Orthopedics gets area residents back in the game.

OAK repairs athletes at all levels — from the Little Leaguer who broke an arm sliding into second base to the high school athlete with an eye on a college scholarship. OAK is on the sidelines for local high school football games and on the sidelines at Soldier Field to watch over the Chicago Bears.

The group of physicians also repairs hundreds of folks who might have never earned a high school athletic letter. That includes baby boomers wanting to play tennis again, dancers who want to pivot in the Rumba and scores of folks whose joints have just worn out from years of work.

“They are all Olympic athletes to us,” said Dr. Michael Corcoran, the president and physician administrator of OAK. Corcoran and OAK have been affiliated with the Chicago Bears for more than 17 years — since they started coming to Bourbonnais for training camp.

OAK now is being honored as the Mid-Sized Business of the Year as part of the annual Progress Awards bestowed by the Daily Journal.

OAK has its main office in Bradley at 400 S. Kennedy Drive, Suite 100. It also has facilities in Frankfort, New Lenox and at Iroquois Memorial Hospital in Watseka. The Bradley and Frankfort offices are open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The New Lenox and Watseka locations are by appointment only.

OAK is an independent orthopedic group that has been serving the area for more than 75 years.

“It’s a matter of building relationships,” Corcoran said. “When you have been in practice for 20 years, you replace grandma’s knee. Years later, you get the grandson.

“I would put our team of physicians against anyone,” Corcoran said.

Their list of orthopedic surgeons include these specialists: Corcoran and Dr. Tom Antkowiak are fellowship trained in sports medicine and arthroscopy. Drs. Wesley Choy and Alexander Michalow practice general orthopedics. Dr. Eddie Jones is an expert in trauma, dealing with victims of accidents, whether on the road or slipping on the sidewalk. Dr. Kermit Muhammad specializes in hand surgery. Dr. Rajeev Puri is fellowship trained in both total joint replacement, as well as foot and ankle surgery. Dr. Ryan Sullivan is the newcomer, having completed a fellowship in complex total joint replacement and revisions.

Assisting them are four fellowship trained nonoperative physicians: Drs. Carey Ellis and Eric Lee are primary care sports medicine physicians. Drs. Juan Santiago-Palma and Ashraf Hasan are specialists in spine and pain management. Dr. Timothy Friedrich is the podiatrist who provides foot and ankle care.

Early partner of OAK and recently retired Dr. Milton Smit still provides input and advice as emeritus.

Additional providers include physicians assistants Kristin Fields, Jonathan Jusko, Adriana Lingl, Taylor Atkinson, Devon Saini and Randi Fabsits and advanced practical nurse David Fritz.

Paige Cripe is the new CEO at OAK. With a career based in managing physician’s business, she moved from Anchorage, Alaska, to join OAK.

Cripe notes the doctors at OAK are specialists with fellowship training in their specific disciplines. That training usually is an extra year beyond completing the orthopedic program.

“It is a hyperfocused specialization,” she said.

OAK provides a remarkable number of specialists for a community this size, she said. OAK has a strong reputation in the community, but not everyone is aware of all the services it offers.

If you have an orthopedic injury, she said, you can skip going to the emergency room and come right to OAK. That is even more convenient now that OAK is open as late as 7 p.m. With some injuries, patients can be seen and be home in time for dinner.

The cost savings pertains not only for individuals, but also for businesses. With workmen’s compensation, bypassing the emergency room amounts to a cost savings, along with getting the patient to the correct specialist right away.

OAK also has X-ray and MRI equipment, so that work can be done right there, rather than having images made somewhere else and sent over. OAK strives to do an MRI the same day and have the results the next day from the same team who interprets tests for the Chicago Bears. The cost is significantly less than other imaging centers, sometimes up to a fourth of what the others charge. In-house Durable Medical Equipment also eases the patient visit by providing needed splints, braces, crutches and other needed equipment.

On weekends, you can see OAK physicians and equipment at area high school football games. That’s a volunteer effort. You might see the OAK Medical van that travels to different high schools and Olivet Nazarene University each week, the same van that provides X-ray and medical services to the Bears during training camp. A high schooler who needs an X-ray uses the same equipment with the same technician and the same care that would go into Bears’ quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Demand for orthopedic services has been on the rise because of an aging population. The broken bones continue to be with us, as a result of sports or even awkward falls on wintertime ice. Older age, too, always has resulted in wear and tear on joints. That can come from repetitive motions done over and over again.

But people today have a higher expectation of staying active in life. Seniors, especially the boomer generation, want to get out and keep playing tennis or golf. They jog and ride bicycles rather than being confined to an easy chair.

People realize, too, they do not have to be in pain. Cripe remembers her grandmother getting a hip done 13 years ago, after years of walking down the steps backward to cut down on the pain. That result was so positive, she got the second hip done a year later.

While the basic design of the artificial knee remains the same, there have been subtle improvements throughout the years. The sizing is more varied and fits better for individuals. The incisions are much smaller, now “minimally invasive.” Corcoran, along with the other OAK total joint physicians, now offer outpatient total knee replacements at their OAK Surgical Institute, which allows patients to go home the same day.

“Patients are happier recovering at home and rehab more quickly with less complications.”

The artificial knees are mechanical devices that will wear out in 10 to 15 years. Being in good physical shape will improve a patient’s outcome, but some exercises are better than others. Swimming, cycling and using the elliptical are better than jogging, running and the treadmill.

The same advice generally applies to preserving the knee in the first place. Keep the weight off. Don’t smoke. Make sure your mechanics in a sport are correct.

Cripe said OAK has solutions short of surgery, too. Stem Cell Therapy and Platelet Rich Plasma, both of which are designed to help damaged tissue heal faster, are available. OAK can deploy robotic assisted surgery when appropriate.

OAK Athletic Development at 110 Mooney Drive, Bourbonnais, has exercise programs designed to strengthen joints. The facility has free weights, sleds and a variety of exercise equipment. A strength and conditioning coach leads people through workouts. Classes are available.

Cripe said a goal in 2019 is to add a medical weight-loss clinic to OAK.

OAK also is a good steward in the community, sponsoring and donating to Little Leagues, high schools and colleges. For years, OAK was the major sponsor for the ice rink operated by the Kankakee Valley Park District.