Episode 3 - Ron Donelson: Orthopedic Surgeon Turned Self Care Advocate

Professional background:

He was introduced to MDT by Greg Silva, a local therapist in the same town and noticed this therapist doing some unusual things with his patients with equally unusual effectiveness.

He became interested in the effects of this poorly understood but effective conservative care and collaborated with Mr. Silva, meeting Robin McKenzie a short time later.  That shifted his professional career and led to him to getting involved in a group who developed a spine program and him contributing with the non-operative care component.  The rapid response through a dynamic movement assessment was most impressive to him.



A meaningful quote to Dr. Donelson is “If we operate on the wrong leg, we call it a medical error.  What do we call it if we operate on someone who doesn’t need it?” – Dr. Jack Wennberg


Greatest challenges and our Needed Reaction:

Lacking and deficiency in the literature is a major challenge and our need to produce more literature to identify best care through evidence should be our response.


Greatest Strength:

As mechanical assessment specialists, our greatest strength is our outcomes.

Outcome measures need to demonstrate value.  Value equalling the care quality divided by the cost of care.

A memorable patient story was with a gentleman with severe episode of back pain with a lateral shift having to be transported by ambulance to be evaluated at the ER.  Within 45 minutes, with the help of Greg Silva that man walked out of the ER.


A Clinical Analogy that Dr. Donelson uses: 

When he feels it’s warranted is the description of the disc model to help the patient view a rapid improvement of motion following one direction of loading and a worsening of symptoms and movement following motion in another direction.


One of the Best Pieces of Advice that he ever received came from Vert Mooney early on in Dr. Donelson’s learning and sharing about mechanical assessment. Dr. Mooney mentioned, “You know, Ron you can’t do what you want to do by staying in your home town and in your private practice.”  That clarified he needed to get on a larger stage.  To produce scientific papers he was self taught but relied on mentors with statistical and study design experience.



Books that have been revealing and a great resource:

Innovator’s Prescription by Clayton Christiensen – buy here

Redefining Healthcare by Michael Porter – buy here




A recent study that has influenced his thoughts about clinical practice is a study from JMMT in December of 2010 can be found here:



Currently he’s excited about and putting effort in exposing the effectiveness of conservative care within the North American Spine Society (NASS).  One can find out more about NASS at the website at www.spine.org


Find out more about Dr. Donelson’s services and products at his website at www.selfcarefirst.com

You can reach him at donelson@selfcarefirst.com