When Michael Calfee, MD, went on his first mission trip in 2011, it was because his daughter wanted to go. Six years later and more than 10 mission trips under his belt with more on the horizon, it seems Calfee is a man on a mission. While the Union City orthopedist will lead a trip to Honduras this summer through his church and make a medical mission trip in the fall, his current mission is a joint venture to re-open a surgery center in Union City.
The Cleveland, Tenn. native was the middle child of a family of five. While there had never been a doctor in the family, Calfee's father urged all three of his sons to go to medical school. Calfee and his older brother took that advice literally and went the traditional route of medical school while his younger brother chose to pursue veterinary medicine.
At the University of Tennessee at Knoxville where he graduated with highest honors in 1991, Calfee's decision to double major in biology and religious studies with a minor in zoology led him to meet his wife. "I took a class as an elective called legacy of the Vietnam War, which was a religious studies class," said Calfee. "I really enjoyed the professor and wanted to take more classes under him for my electives. I took enough that I only had to take a few more to get a second major. I was accepted into medical school at the end of my junior year but deferred it a year to spend my senior year finishing up my religious studies degree and ended up meeting the girl I would marry."
When Calfee started medical school at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in Memphis, orthopedics was the only specialty he was interested in. He completed a one year transitional internship at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis. His orthopedic surgery residency and a foot and ankle fellowship were completed through the University of Tennessee at the Campbell Clinic.
Calfee started his medical career with an orthopedic group in Dalton, Georgia. After three years, he headed to West Tennessee to join a practice in Paris. In 2007, he ventured out on his own and opened Advanced Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Union City. He later purchased the former Union City Medical Center, which houses his practice, a surgery center and Synergy Physical Therapy, which Calfee opened in 2012.
While the surgery center closed in October 2016, Calfee has partnered with David DeBoer, MD, an orthopedic surgeon from Nashville who specializes in primary and total joint replacement, to re-open the facility in May. "We are adding some new equipment to allow for anterior total hip replacements. Dr. Deboer will be in one week a month to perform total joint replacement procedures. Initially we will do orthopedic surgeries as well as some pain management but our hope is to recruit a neurosurgeon to operate there as well," said Calfee. "The facility has a multi-specialty licensure, so any outpatient surgery can be performed there."
Once the center is re-opened, Calfee's attention will turn to what has become a passion for him and his family, mission work. Calfee credits his oldest daughter Grace Ann, a sophomore at Lee University who is interested in Child Advocacy Law, with getting him interested in mission work. "She declared at the age of two that she wanted to be a missionary. In 2011, we took our first mission trip to Russia where we spent 12 days teaching English to college students. After that, I was hooked," he said.
Since his inaugural trip, Calfee has made 12 mission trips to Honduras, eight of which have been medical in nature with organizations such as Global Health Outreach and Operation New Life. "On a typical trip, our team of four physicians will do 30 total joint replacements in a week. We work with an orthopedic residency program in the capital of Honduras to treat their patients who cannot afford the procedure," said Calfee. "The residents then provide any follow-up treatment after the team has left. The group makes two orthopedic mission trips each year and I have been blessed to go twice a year the past three years. My wife has even gone on some of them with me as a part of the prayer team."
This year, Calfee will be sitting out the spring medical mission trip with Operation New Life so he can lead his church's building mission trip. "We will be taking high school students this summer, including my daughter Elizabeth, who is a junior and my son Hudson, who is a freshman. My wife organizes the summer trip" said Calfee. "It's a great way to get these kids out of their comfort zones and it is really neat to see their appreciation for how good they have it at home."