Our Patients Come First

Listen to Joint & Spine Academy Director Merie Bridges and Rehab & Wellness Director Oscar Gamble discuss joint and spine surgery and treatment options on the Golden Hippo show 02/13/14.

Bayfront Health Punta Gorda’s Spine Academy is committed to helping patients suffering from spinal disorders ranging from the very simple to the very complex. Whatever the problem, we address your situation with skill, care, and a sense of urgency. With Priority Consult®, a state-of-the-art medical triage software system, our surgeons provide a rapid review of your medical condition within days - not weeks.

Priority Consult®: Fast, Efficient Care for Your Spine - Once we are contacted about your spine problem, we will call you to obtain a detailed medical history and collect recent X-rays, MRI, or other scans of your spine. The surgeon will review your medical information, and we will call you with a recommendation within a few days.

The surgeon may recommend an immediate appointment. However, many patients benefit from additional treatment and testing prior to a surgeon appointment. The surgeon may recommend that you see one of our rehabilitation physicians, receive physical therapy from one of our network therapists, or schedule additional testing such as an MRI.

Personalized Coordination of Your Care

If the surgeon recommends treatment prior to an appointment, a Nurse Navigator, who is a nurse with experience in assisting patients with spine pain, will call you with educational information and will help coordinate your treatment. We will maintain communication with you and your referring physician throughout your care experience to ensure your total satisfaction.

Cervical Discectomy and Fusion

A surgical procedure performed on the cervical (neck) region of the spine to help relieve pressure on nerves


A minimally invasive surgical procedure for people suffering with compression fractures of the spine

Lumbar Microdiscectomy

This minimally invasive technique spares the bones, muscles, ligaments and surrounding soft tissue from trauma

Disc Replacement

A surgical procedure in which a worn or damaged intervertebral disc is replaced by an artificial disc designed to allow continued motion of that part of the spine

Lumbar Fusion

An operation to stabilize the lower back by creating bony bridges between at least two vertebrae and eliminating motion between them

Non-surgical Treatment of the Spine

Treatment or therapy that does not involve surgery

Press Releases

Here you will find links to all news related to The Spine Academy.

Spine Academy Frequently Asked Questions (with Answers!)

What are The Joint Academy and The Spine Academy Programs?

The Joint Academy and The Spine Academy Programs are programs and teams of exceptional orthopedic surgeons and clinicians who are experts in knowing, anticipating and delivering care to the individual having joint replacement or spinal surgery. The Joint Academy and The Spine Academy provide an environment that highlights wellness and maximizes patient recovery effort through education, a culture of early mobility, family involvement and group interaction.

What Makes The Joint Academy and The Spine Academy Programs Different?

Superior practice proves that individuals undergoing joint replacement and spinal surgery do significantly better if they see themselves as healthy individuals who are coming to the hospital to address their pain and improve their quality of life rather than being sick. Patients who have their surgeries at hospitals that partner with their physicians to develop structured programs around the fundamental concept of wellness have better outcomes, expedited recovery and a quicker return to home.

Here’s what makes our program different:

  • Dedicated Unit (with Spacious, Private Rooms) - All activities - including physical therapy, group lunches and nursing care – occur on a unit dedicated exclusively to either joint replacement or spinal surgery patients. Large, motivational posters are placed throughout the halls to boost the morale of or patients.
  • Dedicated Staff - All staff members in The Joint Academy and The Spine Academy were chosen specifically because of their expertise, positive attitudes, and high motivational skills.
  • Care Coordinator - A Care Coordinator oversees the patient’s entire stay, and is a resource before, during and after discharge.
  • Street Clothes Rather Than Hospital Gowns - Patients are expected to bring comfortable clothes – t-shirts, shorts, etc. – rather than wearing hospital gowns. They wear comfortable clothes during the day, further encouraging our program’s fundamental concept of wellness.
  • Aggressive Daily Schedule - Patients are awake and dressed by 7 a.m. starting the day after surgery. Group therapy sessions as well as in-room therapy and education occur daily.
  • Daily Newsletters - Each morning at breakfast, patients receive a daily newsletter letting them know what is on the agenda for the day along with specifics for caring for their recent surgical procedure.
  • Visual Patient Incentive Board - As a part of The Joint Academy, patients compete with each other on distance walked each day. All progress is tracked on a large exercise board posted on the wall. The exercise board provides visual reinforcement of daily goals.
  • Comprehensive Guidebook - Education begins in the physician’s office were patients receive a comprehensive guidebook explaining their upcoming surgery. The guidebook provides a list of activities including pre-operative strengthening exercises that they need to begin prior to their procedure.
  • Pre-Operative Class - All patients and their family members are scheduled to attend a pre-operative class one to two weeks prior to surgery. In these classes, patients meet their team, learn about the procedure, understand what to expect in the hospital, and learn how to care for oneself after discharge.
  • Coach - Each patient chooses a coach – usually a friend or family member – who is an active participating in their loved one’s care throughout the experience. Coaches learn the program alongside their loved one and provide encouragement and support. Coaches receive a special coach’s button that designates the key role they play.
  • Group Lunches - Group lunches occur in the center’s group room for patients, coaches and staff, which encourage camaraderie and shared experiences.
  • After-Care Support Program - Graduates of the program receive calls from the dedicated Joint Academy or Spine Academy staff within 72 hours of discharge. Reunions for graduates and their coaches occur regularly with surgeons and the entire care team.
  • Advanced Analgesic and Rapid-Recovery Surgical Techniques - Our surgeons are trained in the most advanced analgesic and minimally invasive surgical techniques that result in less pain and a quicker recovery for patients.
  • Superior Outcomes - We evaluate each patient on multiple clinical, functional and patient satisfaction criteria. These outcomes are analyzed during monthly performance improvement team meetings and enable us to become masters of teamwork and performance.

What Makes The Joint Academy and The Spine Academy Programs Innovative?

The new comprehensive joint replacement and spinal surgery programs are based on a national best practice model for hip and knee replacements and structured around the fundamental principle of wellness. Hospitals who implement this program report results with superior outcomes.

Here’s what makes our program innovative:

  • Minimally Invasive Procedures - Each procedure is combined with next generation, advanced analgesic techniques to decrease post-operative pain and nausea.
  • A Unique Staffing Model - The staff allows us to integrate education, personal coaching and clinical excellence under a common goal of rapid recovery and improved quality of life.
  • A Dedicated Inpatient Unit - By combining educational, medical and rehabilitation services with private rooms, the unit allows for both functional and aesthetic appeal.
  • Redesigned Physical Environment - A redesigned physical environment and work processes enhance the patient experience and significantly increase patient satisfaction.
  • Standardized Protocols - Consistent protocols facilitated early ambulation, rapid discharge, and accelerated recovery.
  • Comprehensive System - A complete system to measure clinical, functional, and operational outcomes and benchmarks allows us to compare our outcomes with hospitals across the country.

Why choose The Joint Academy or The Spine Academy at Bayfront Health Punta Gorda?

Our program offers quality interaction between expertly trained caretakers and nurses while respecting patient dignity. The family and friend involvement provides emotional support that guarantees superior care. The information and education provided equip patients with a sense of wellness and patient satisfaction. The goal of The Joint Academy and The Spine Academy is to deliver the finest care and quickest road to recovery. The specially trained orthopedic team at Bayfront Health Punta Gorda creates an individual care plan for each patient, working together to alleviate fears and boost rehabilitation.


Jessica Pellot
"Back pain is out, and I'm back in the game."

Avid softball enthusiast Jessica Pellot was benched due to a herniated disc and severe sciatica. Her back pain got so bad she could barely get two hours of sleep at night. Then she met with Dr. Douglas Hershkowitz at Bayfront Health Punta Gorda’s new Spine Academy. “I call him my miracle worker,” she said. “Both he and the anesthesiologist thoroughly explained what I could expect before, during and after my surgery.” Jessica found a new facility and a whole new approach to spinal surgery and post-operative care. Before, just sitting up to drive was unbearable. Now, Jessica is thrilled that she can play with her kids at the park and can even play softball again.


Carol Malvano
“The back pain blues are gone and my green thumb is back.”

Avid gardener Carol Malvano had to put down the trowel because of back and leg pain. Pain pills and epidurals provided some relief, but eventually nothing helped. She had been so pleased with her knee and hip surgeries at the Joint Academy that she chose to have her back surgery at Bayfront Health Punta Gorda’s new Spine Academy. “The relief was instant, and they took such good care of me,” Carol said. “Now I’m getting around great and feeling better than I have in years, thanks to Dr. Hansell and the wonderful staff at the Spine Academy.” Now Carol is getting back to gardening and other activities she’s been missing for years.


Call (941) 639-3131 today to discuss ending your back pain and getting your life back on the road.