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Dr. Mike Dolan specializes in hand and wrist surgery.

Hand surgeon Dr. Mike Dolan saves livelihoods

Dr. Mike Dolan had just finished cooking Thanksgiving dinner for his family when he got a phone call. An electrician was building a deer stand when he completely cut off his right thumb above the knuckle.

Dr. Dolan, who is board certified in both hand surgery and general surgery, set his Thanksgiving plans aside. Even though he wasn’t on call that day, he didn’t hesitate. His skills were needed to save a man’s livelihood.

‘Everything below the elbow’

Dr. Dolan specializes in hand and wrist surgery at West Tennessee Bone & Joint Clinic; “everything below the elbow,” he says. “If it can be done on a hand, I can do it.”

He treats many problems of the lower arm, including nerve problems in the elbow and hand; congenital problems, such as removing an extra finger; soft tissue work, such as skin grafting; fractures in the forearm, wrist and hand; arthritic conditions of the hand, fingers, wrist and thumb; and torn ligaments in the wrist. Often, his treatment requires microsurgery to reattach tiny vessels.

A graduate of Baylor University, Dr. Dolan earned his medical degree at St. George’s University School of Medicine. His surgical residency was at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. His hand surgery residency was at University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas.

He had lived with his family in Jackson, Mississippi, for several years before they moved to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. He liked the Mid-South area so he turned to it to set up his first practice, Hand Specialty Center of Tennessee in Selmer, and accepted an offer from McNairy Regional Hospital.

A chance meeting

His move to the West Tennessee Bone & Joint Clinic started with a chance meeting with Dr. Adam Smith, who practices at Bone & Joint. They were leaving a medical meeting in Jackson when Dr. Dolan jokingly told Dr. Smith that he was going home to play “Call of Duty,” an online video game. Dr. Smith also liked the game. Before long, Dr. Dolan was part of a “Call of Duty” team that included Dr. Smith, Dr. David Pearce, who also practices at Bone & Joint, and Adam Kelley, the clinic’s Marketing Director.

“We got to know one another well,” Dr. Dolan says. “Through that we began referring patients. They offered me the use of their clinic in Jackson a few days a month, and then one day a week, and now I am joining the clinic. It was an easy decision.”

Besides unwinding with a video game, he likes to grill, duck hunt, go boating and spend time with his family. He has been on one mission trip to Haiti and two to Belize with the LEAP Foundation, a non-profit group that provides free medical care around the world.

He met his future wife, Heather, when he hired her as a lifeguard for the YMCA pool that he managed. Both were students at Baylor. They married in 2001 after he romantically proposed to her atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Heather was seven months pregnant with their only child, Sean, when they moved to the Selmer area. Sean is now three.

Dr. Dolan became a hand surgeon after trying trauma surgery. His surgery residency in Jackson, Mississippi, was in the trauma unit of a major city hospital. “I liked being there in a time of need and fixing what was broken,” he said. But after a while, he said, trauma was changing him into a person he didn’t want to be. “To survive the emotion of people dying, you begin to get calloused towards your patients. It was hard to have a balance.”

Saving livelihoods

Dr. Dolan began to look for other areas of trauma and found hand surgery. “It was a way to do trauma and never have to tell someone’s mother her son is dead.” He found himself saving livelihoods instead of lives.

His hand surgery residency was in Dallas, another urban trauma center. He was busy. In one year, he had 1,200 surgeries.

He’s had many, many successful outcomes with emergencies to the hand, wrist and forearm. He describes a few of them …
  • An Indianapolis woman was on a family vacation when she fell off of a four-wheeler, dislocated her wrist and lost the blood supply to her hand. Her hand would die without immediate surgery to restore blood flow. Dr. Dolan reattached her arteries and fixed a broken bone. The woman has since come back to visit and thank him again.
  • A man working at a sawmill nearly amputated his forearm. Dr. Dolan reattached two nerves and 10 tendons and a broken bone. You can barely see the injury on the man’s forearm now.
  • When another woman severed her thumb, Dr. Dolan repaired the damage and then sewed her hand to her abdomen for a month to keep blood supply to her thumb as it healed.
  • A 22-year-old engineer had an 800-pound steel beam fall and crush both of his wrists at a factory. It took several hours of surgery to fix the radius and ulna bones in both wrists with metal plates and screws. The man is back at work.
The best treatment anywhere

  • Tennessee State Trooper Kennie Lamberth got into an altercation with a suspect high on drugs and alcohol when he had to wrestle the man to the ground. His right hand got crushed. He went to the Hardin County Emergency Room where he met Dr. Dolan, who then transferred him to McNairy Regional where Dr. Dolan put five pins in his hand and wrist to repair the broken bones. “It was the best treatment I could have gotten anywhere,” Lamberth says. “Dr. Dolan even called to check on me the next day. Today, I have no problem with my hand and wrist. He really fixed me up.”

  • Electrician Sam Mitchell hadn’t eaten Thanksgiving dinner either when he severed the top part of his right thumb with the skill saw. His wife drove him to the Tupelo Medical Center where doctors were suggesting that they cut off his entire thumb, Mitchell said. “Thank goodness, another surgeon heard the discussion and personally called Dr. Dolan at home.” Dr. Dolan met Mitchell at McNairy Regional and did microsurgery to sew the severed tiny nerves and vessels together. “I was in the hospital seven days,” Mitchell said. “They put me on blood thinners. For two days, they put leeches on my thumb to draw the blood flow back to my thumb.” A grateful Mitchell says, “I have full feeling back in my thumb and a little bitty scar. Dr. Dolan is a very good doctor. You just don’t realize how much you use your thumb. He saved my livelihood.”