Coming home to provide care

Two new providers augment team at Orthopedic Specialists

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Dr. Andrew Odland looks over a set of X-rays at Orthopedic Specialists, 2700 First Ave. S.

In rural America, there is a pattern of talented young people heading off to college and then choosing to pursue careers far from the towns and farms where they grew up. Some, however, do come home. That’s the case with two health care professionals who are new members of the team at Fort Dodge-based Orthopedic Specialists, 2700 First Ave. S.

Andrew Odland, M.D., and Ben Becker, PA-C, are now helping folks in the communities they have long called home confront orthopedic issues.

Andrew Odland, M.D.

Dr. Odland grew up on a farm about 10 miles northwest of Clarion. His parents are Dave and Annette Odland. He graduated from what was then Clarion-Goldfield High School in 2004. Odland said he had identified medicine as a career choice when he began his undergraduate program at Iowa State University, Ames, and pursued a pre-med major.

Initially, Odland said he anticipated family practice as his likely specialty. Shortly before heading to medical school at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, that changed as the result of a mentoring encounter with Emile Li, M.D., one of the partners at Orthopedic Specialists. His mother, who is an administrator at Iowa Specialty Hospital in Clarion introduced him to Li.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Ben Becker, PA-C, works with some of the models used to explain injuries and treatments to patients.

“That’s when Dr. Li had just started doing surgeries there,” Andrew Odland said. “My mom got to know Dr. Li through administration and said you should come and check out what Dr. Li is doing. He does some really cool surgeries here and he is a really nice guy.”

That interaction started Odland down a path to orthopedics and ultimately back to practice in Fort Dodge and Clarion.

“I hung out with Dr. Li for about a week way back in 2007,” Odland said. “I decided I loved orthopedics and thought it was so cool. That’s when I decided I wanted to do orthopedics. So, I went into medical school knowing I wanted to do orthopedics. My goal was to come back and work with Dr. Li in north central Iowa. So, I did four years at Iowa (University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine), five years at Mayo Clinic in Rochester (for an internship and residency). I did a fellowship in Lake Tahoe, California. It was in sports medicine.”

Odland said the decision to return to north central Iowa came about as a result of family ties and his enthusiasm for the high-quality care the team at Orthopedic Specialists provides.

“Both my parents are from Clarion,” he said. “My grandparents are from Clarion. I’ve got a lot of family there. I loved the idea of raising my kids close to family. I like the small-town lifestyle. I love to travel and see the world, but I love coming back to rural Iowa.’

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Dr. Andrew Odland, left, and Ben Becker, PA-C, discuss patient X-rays at Orthopedic Specialists.

Odland said specializing in orthopedics appealed to him because of the nature of the relationship with patients.

“As opposed to dealing with chronic disease like in a lot of fields of medicine, you have a tangible problem that you get to fix and usually make people better,” he said. “So, we get people with a problem and put it in the rearview mirror. At least, that’s the goal. I enjoy being able to see patients get better. It’s very rewarding to see that happen to people.”

Odland said he likes practicing orthopedics in a small city because doing so means he handles a diverse array of patient issues.

“I do a little bit of everything,” he said. “I do trauma, broken hips and things like that. Whatever comes in. So rotator cuffs, shoulder dislocations, things like that – torn meniscuses, torn ACLs. All kinds of sport injuries. Then I also do hip replacements, shoulder replacements, knee replacements. I like to see a whole range of people from 18-year-olds with sports injuries to 80-year-olds with total knee replacement. That’s another thing that attracted me to come back to small-town orthopedics because you get to do all that stuff. You see that whole range.”

Odland said his approach to patient care puts a high priority on helping people understand the choices available to them.

“I am big on making sure patients understand their options and believe in shared decision making,” he said. “So, instead of telling people what they need to have done, I really explain to them what problem they have, what their options are and talk it through with them to help them make the best decision for their personal situation.”

Odland is a partner at Orthopedics Specialists and an employee of Iowa Specialty Hospital. He sees patients in Fort Dodge and Clarion as well as other ISH locations. He began his local practice this month.

Andrew and Katie Odland, who is a dentist, have two children. Their son, Jack, is 2. Daughter Lydia is a newborn. The family lives in Clarion.

Odland said he is delighted to be part of Orthopedics Specialists.

“I’ve known Dr. Li and Dr. (Mark) Palit and Dr. (Gautam) Kakade for a long time. I know how great of a practice they’ve built, which is pretty unique to have in a smaller town. They provide really high-quality orthopedic care that you wouldn’t get in other places. … I’m just excited to be back in the area. I think I can relate to people because I grew up around here. I look forward to building my practice.”

Ben Becker, PA-C

Ben Becker’s family that has been part of the Fort Dodge community for more than 13 decades. He is the son of Bruce and Deb Becker. The Becker family owns Becker Florists, 1335 First Ave. N. That longtime Fort Dodge business was founded by their ancestors in 1885.

Ben Becker said he worked in the family business as a youngster and teenager but decided that a career in health care was a better professional fit for him.

As a student athlete in high school and college he had his first contact with Orthopedic Specialists as a patient.

“I’ve been really big into sports my entire life since a little kid,” Becker said. “I played football and wrestled in high school and wrestled in college. I had sports injuries that required treatment from orthopedic providers. Having various injuries and seeing the orthopedic doctor, I was drawn to that from a very young age. It was through those experiences that I first developed an interest in orthopedics.”

After graduating from St. Edmond High School in 2006, Becker completed a bachelor’s degree in human biology with a minor in chemistry at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He then headed to Florida for graduate study. He completed a Master of Clinical Medical Science, Physician Assistant program at Barry University, Miami Shores, Florida.

After completing his studies in Florida, Becker practiced for two years in Kansas City.

“I had a great time down there but wanted to come home,” he said. “It’s very nice to be back. I like having family around.”

Becker joined the team at Orthopedic Specialists in January 2017.

“I knew some of the surgeons and PAs even before going to school,” he said. “I also did one of my rotations during school here with them. We had a very good experience and things turned out. … I work with a great staff and surgeons. I don’t think I could pick anyone better to work with.”

As a certified physician assistant, he said he is involved in a broad range of patient care.

“My areas of specialization include assisting Drs. Li, Palit, Kakade and Ordland in performing surgical and nonsurgical procedures for the spine, shoulder, elbow, hand, hip and knee,” Becker said. “Whether I am performing an injection in your hip or helping one of our surgeons perform a total knee arthroplasty, my goal is to work with you to understand your injury or condition and collaborate with our in providing the best possible outcome and a return to your active lifestyle.”

He said he greatly enjoys interacting with patients and finding ways to make their life better.

“I like seeing my own patients and forming a relationship,” Becker said. “A lot of people are very thankful and happy that you can help them. It’s always nice to be able to help people out with their pain.”

Communicating fully with patients is the key to success, he said.

“Listen to the patient,” Becker said. “Take your time with them. Patients really appreciate that.”

He said being very patient-centered is a hallmark of Orthopedic Specialists.

Becker said very careful attention to patient needs distinguishes the practice.

“Patients get a little more detailed attention than they would anywhere else,” he said.

Becker has an important message for people who think they might benefit from orthopedic care.

“If you think something is wrong, don’t hesitate to come in,” he said. “Don’t put things off. You don’t need to suffer.”

Orthopedic Specialists has served Fort Dodge and the surrounding area nearly a quarter century. It also partners with Iowa Specialty Hospital in Clarion.