Career Path

From Jiu Jitsu to Joint Replacements: Surgeon Finds His Perfect Fit

PS&D helps physician land a new life merging his passion for orthopedics with his love for martial arts.

As he prepared to begin his fellowship at Johns Hopkins University in 2019, Dr. Steven Dailey had two goals: to work in a small town where he could build a world-class Orthopedics program, and to train at a world-class jiu jitsu studio.

He knew the odds of finding those two things in one spot would be slim.

Then he saw a job posting for an Orthopedic Surgeon at Providence Seaside Hospital on the Oregon coast. The onetime state wrestling champion and brown belt did a quick online search and was stunned to find that Adamson Bros Jiu Jitsu Academy also called Seaside home.

"This wasn't just any studio," Dr. Dailey says. "The two brothers who run it got their black belt from a world champion. They still compete; they’re legit! You’d have to go south to Sacramento to find a gym of that quality."

He immediately called the recruiter for the job, Provider Solutions & Development's Tessa Kerr. Together, the new doctor and the recruiter began a journey that would end with Dr. Dailey moving to a community of 6,700 with a huge need for an Orthopedic Surgeon.

"It was a really rewarding match," Tessa says. "Not only because it was such a good fit for Dr. Dailey, but because it can be difficult to recruit for rural communities. This was a huge win for Seaside hospital. They are absolutely thrilled to have him!"

A Homecoming

Returning to Oregon in summer of 2020 was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for Dr. Dailey, something he says he's grateful could happen even in the midst of a turbulent year.

He grew up a few hours' drive from Seaside, on a 40-acre homestead in the foothills outside Portland — a rough and tumble kid who loved the outdoors and sports, with a particular affinity for wrestling.

"I am that athlete who grew up getting sports injuries, getting treated and then wanting to help others," he says.

A Nurse Practitioner was a constant in his life, treating his aches and pains, draining his cauliflower ears after wrestling meets. When a fractured radius threatened to end his athletic career, a successful surgery cemented his mission to one day help others regain their mobility.

Another big influence was Dr. Dailey's father, who became an engineer later in life, going to night school for his GED, then his associate's, then his college degree. Watching his dad’s journey was powerful for Dr. Dailey. The two ended up graduating from Portland State University one year apart.

Dr. Dailey was the team captain of the PSU wrestling team, and got married to his wife, Kelli, before earning his M.D. from Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans and completing his residency at University of Cincinnati.

The Right Job, the First Time

Many surgeons secure their first jobs before starting their fellowships. Around the same time Dr. Dailey got accepted at Johns Hopkins, he began his search process. He’d read that 50 percent of physicians leave their first job within three years, and he didn't want to fall into that category.

Several jobs along the West Coast interested him. He let PS&D Recruiter Tessa Kerr know that he wanted to be a team physician at Seaside High School, and he requested a specific operating table so he could perform his preferred anterior-approach hip replacements.

"Steven and I talked many times over a year and a half," Tessa says. "I worked with Providence to make sure he’d have the equipment he needed and that he’d be able to work with the high school sports teams. I understood why every detail was so important to him — this was a place he wanted to put down roots in, and I worked hard to set him up for success."

Tessa and her team at PS&D set to work, planning a site visit for Dr. Dailey that left plenty of time for multiple interviews, site visits, house hunting, and of course, a workout at Adamson Bros.

"Tessa was great to work with. She was a real advocate for me," Dr. Dailey says. "It was by far the best recruiting experience I had. I have no complaints, only praise. The communication and planning were seamless."

He remembers feeling giddy as he flew across the country, to see if the job, city and community would be as good of a fit as he thought they would be. It turned out to be better. He loved the team, had a great interview, went on a hike and explored the beach with his wife, then headed to the Adamson Brothers' studio.

"I arranged to go over there after I was done meeting with everyone from the hospital. I didn't want to show up for my interview with a black eye," he says, laughing. "We got to meet the owners. It was outstanding. They have a great philosophy and approach, and we got a great workout. It all just rolled up into me being confident to make the move."

Saving Lifestyles

Dr. Dailey started his new job in September 2020, and says it's been amazing, although it's been an adjustment going from a massive, Level 1 health system with 25-plus operating rooms to a 25-bed critical access hospital with three ORs.

But he wouldn't change a thing, he says. His three-minute commute can't be beat, he never has trouble finding a parking spot, and every time he operates, he has the same team. Already, he says, they’re melding into a well-oiled machine.

It's the best, he says, when his patients are happy with their results.

"I can do a joint replacement, and give someone a near instantaneous improvement in the quality of their life," he says. "It's less about saving lives and more about saving lifestyles — getting people back to the activities they enjoy, so they can be the person they are again."

In the coming year, along with ramping up joint replacements, Dr. Dailey has ambitions to get his black belt once COVID restrictions ease. He'd also like to volunteer his time with the high school wrestling team.

What advice would he give to other new graduates? Dr. Dailey suggests breaking your job search down into a list of must-haves, nice-to-haves, and things that ultimately don't matter. He says this process helped him sort opportunities and only apply for roles that met everything on his "A list." He involved his wife in the process, knowing her happiness was equally important. After 10 phone interviews and two in-person interviews, Seaside was the clear winner.

Tessa says it’s gratifying to see Dr. Dailey so fulfilled and to know that his presence on the Oregon Coast is expanding healthcare access in an underserved area.

"Everyone deserves to have the best possible care, whether you live in Seaside or Portland," Tessa says. "My reward is knowing that I’m helping to hire the best physicians into the communities that need it most."

In the image above, Dr. Steven Dailey, right, participates in a recent jiu jitsu tournament.