For Joe Thurman, MD, being a General Surgeon is a unique opportunity to intervene at a crucial moment in someone’s life.

“Especially in an emergency situation, I may be meeting someone who is having the worst day of their life,” explains Thurman.“You really make an impact when you can immediately help them with surgery and then on through the recovery process.”

Dr. Joe Thurman
General Surgeon

Thurman, who grew up in rural southern Oklahoma in “Tornado Alley”, first became interested in medicine while participating in medical mission trips during high school.  “My mentors were these wonderful Family Medicine physicians and I wanted to be a small town family doc like them,” says Thurman.

But while in college, a month-long medical mission as a surgical assistant in Nigeria changed his plans. “My first day in the ‘surgical theater’, as they called the operating room, we did everything from C-sections to trauma cases.  I was hooked.”

The trip to Nigeria was like nothing Thurman had ever experienced.  “There were still active rebels in this part of Nigeria. One night a man was dropped off at the door after being shot. We rushed him immediately to surgery.”

“While we were operating, men from his militia walked into the Operating Room with their guns and a camera and stood taking pictures while we worked to save him,” remembers Thurman. “It was very unnerving and surreal to say the least.”

Between college and medical school Thurman gained further experience while working as a Medical Assistant with a large Cardiology practice in Oklahoma City. What started as a “float” job helping out where needed soon became a little more exciting. “We would fly all over the state to do rural access clinics,” explains Thurman. “On my last day before medical school, one of the tires on our plane blew out on a small airstrip in the middle of nowhere.  It was July, 100 degrees, and we were stuck on this asphalt strip for 14 hours waiting for a tire.”

After earning his medical degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Thurman completed his General Surgery residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. There he received extensive experience in emergency general surgery and advanced laparoscopy.

“I really came to appreciate the nature of acute care surgery. The patient is there because they have a serious issue, and you deal with it immediately and help them when they need it most. When possible, using laparoscopic techniques adds the benefits of faster recovery time and often less pain,” says Thurman.

Thurman recently joined Premier Surgical Associates in Knoxville. He focuses on acute care cases and laparoscopic surgery at the group’s office at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center.

Thurman is excited to be a part of Premier Surgical. “It’s an established, well-respected group of surgeons that is truly committed to excellence and taking care of patients.”

Thurman, his wife and toddler son are also enjoying living in Knoxville. “We love Knoxville! It’s very family friendly, with a little bit slower pace. We love being able to be outdoors more here.”

Thurman sees serving patients in need as his mission. “Any surgery is a ‘big deal’ when you’re the patient, and it’s even more stressful when it is not a planned, anticipated event. I’m grateful to be there when they need a surgeon.”