Full-time Orthopedic Surgeon Moving to McCook

May 24, 2021

When Richard Lawton, M.D., Ph.D. was a young boy, he liked fixing things, building bikes, and spending time in the woodshop. Those types of interests lend themselves toward surgery, he says, and pointed him, in his adulthood, to a career in orthopedic surgery. It helped that his father, who recently retired, was a family practice doc, “so I got some initial exposure through watching him when I was a kid.”

Community Hospital’s new, full-time orthopedic surgeon is looking forward to being part of a good healthcare team. “I’m interested in communities that need orthopedic care and have good teams and facilities already assembled,” he said.

When interviewing for the position, he said he was really attracted to the staff. “Troy (Bruntz) and the team really seem to understand what this community needs. I want to be part of that sort of structure.” He added that corporate medicine is not a good fit for him. “A more community-oriented facility and healthcare team have a broader appeal for me.”

Among the many types of orthopedic services he provides, Dr. Lawton specializes in sports medicine and looks forward to developing a sports medicine program at Community Hospital. Having done that in other places he has worked, he knows it’s an asset for the community. “It’s really great for the patients and the families to have those resources and that team network…so the kids get the right diagnosis and the right care.” During his orthopedic sports medicine fellowship at Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail, Colorado, Dr. Lawton served as a team physician providing game, training camp, clinic, locker room/training room, and surgical services for the Denver Broncos, Colorado Rockies, and U.S. ski team.

He also specializes in joint replacement of hips, knees, and shoulders, and takes care of many problems including arthritis care, injuries, and fracture care. Dr. Lawton spent the last 20 years in Durango, Colorado. While medical director at Mercy Orthopedics, Dr. Lawton helped to develop the orthopedic surgery service line. With goals to deliver quality, cost-effective, evidence-based, patient-centered care, for five consecutive years, the hospital was recognized as one of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. for orthopedics, and the only hospital in the state to earn such honor.

What does he find rewarding as an orthopedic surgeon? “Watching a patient recover from their injury—with or without surgical care,” he says. “Some problems are best treated without surgery and others are best treated with surgery. Either way, it’s very rewarding.”

Secondly, he likes to be part of a good healthcare team. “You seem to have that here in McCook and I’m excited about that. Every patient that has a good outcome is a team victory; seeing the team take pride in their outcomes, it's super rewarding.” Thirdly, Dr. Lawton finds reward in developing programs that facilitate the care of patients. “Programs that, for example, improve the quality of care for patients who have arthritis; such as a joint replacement program or developing a sports medicine program to help render care to athletes – especially high school and college students.”

McCook seems like a great little community—not unlike Durango, he says. He and his wife, Sue, raised three children there. The kids, ages 21 to 26, are in transition into adulthood: in grad school, in market research, and enrolled at the University of Colorado. “I like the western part of the country and McCook is closer to my kids than Durango was,” he added.

He grew up in southern California and played a lot of sports. And yes, he worked at Disneyland for five years as a foreman and ride operator. He enjoys music podcasting, hockey, boating, skiing, hunting, fishing, SCUBA, road bicycling, hiking, motorcycling, and aviation.

His schooling includes:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Colorado College in Colorado Springs where he played football for four years as well as baseball.
  • Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.
  • Doctor of Medicine from Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Orthopedic Surgery Residency at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.
  • Orthopedic Sports Medicine Fellowship from Steadman-Hawkins Clinic, Vail, Colorado.

He is board certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, a member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, and a member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Sports Medicine.

Dr. Lawton will see patients at Community Hospital beginning May 26. Physician referrals are not necessary. Appointments may be made by calling Community Hospital Central Scheduling at 308-344-8285.