“I haven’t lived in South Georgia since I was 18 years old. I’m excited about getting back in the area and living in a close-knit community. All of our family is in Fitzgerald and we’re looking forward to being close to them and getting involved in the community,” says Dr. Laura Liles Tharp, a Fitzgerald native and new orthopedic-trained hand surgeon who begins work with Optimorthopedics Group in Douglas on Oct. 1.
Once she starts, Dr. Tharp will be the only hand surgeon within two hours of Douglas. Having her in the area provides the citizens of South Georgia with an important and unique option for meeting their healthcare needs. Dr. Tharp and her husband, Freeman, both grew up in Fitzgerald. She graduated from Fitzgerald High School in 1997 and went to Athens, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science in 2001. From there, Dr. Tharp attended Mercer Medical School. She graduated in 2007 and headed up to Charleston, S.C., where she did her orthopedic residency and a one-year research residency at the Medical University of South Carolina. After six years in Charleston, Dr. Tharp went south to the University of Miami where she completed her hand surgery fellowship. She graduated from Miami in July and now she is in Douglas.
Dr. Tharp chose to specialize in hand surgery because of the diversity of the field. Though the hands are relatively small, they are quite complex and perform myriad tasks on a daily basis. As such, there countless different ailments and conditions which can affect the hands. “I like problem solving. When a patient comes in with a broken bone, can you set it and see almost instant improvement. It’s not like that when treating diabetes or conditions like that. I decided on hand surgery because I like fine detail work and I like variety. In one day, I can do 10 different procedures on the same body part,” she says. Common hand problems include carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, arthritis, broken bones, and lacerations that damage tendons and nerves. In addition to specializing in hand problems, Dr. Tharp will also treat general orthopedic cases, such as broken bones and the like.
Dr. Tharp and her husband, Freeman, who is a software engineer for the Department of Defense, have enjoyed being in Douglas-Coffee County and are ready to get to work. “We are back home for the first time in a long time. Our family is just 30 minutes away. I used to drive 30 minutes or more just to get to work,” she laughs.
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