Bryan A. Fox, MD
Spine Surgeon, Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center;
CDR., U.S. Navy (Ret.)
One of Dr. Bryan Fox’s childhood heroes was his uncle, a thoracic surgeon who died of hepatitis after treating an infected patient during the Vietnam War. Right before the Army surgeon deployed, he gave his 6-year-old nephew a traditional doctor’s “black bag” full of spare surgical instruments.
“That was my inspiration,” Dr. Fox recalls. “I ended up not only following him into medicine but into a military career that has had an enormous influence on my work with patients.”
Dr. Fox, a fellowship-trained spine specialist with Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center (SMOC) in Suffolk, served in the United States Navy for 26 years. After taking an ROTC college scholarship in 1984, he became a decorated jet pilot, flight instructor, flight surgeon and leader in the Orthopaedic Surgery Department at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (NMCP).
The lessons Dr. Fox learned in the military – forming strong bonds with patients, staying calm during tense situations and always emphasizing teamwork – have endured.
“The only focus for military doctors is to do everything to make a patient better,” he notes. “You also develop a deep understanding that physicians and patients are on the same team, all serving together.”
Landing a jet on an aircraft carrier at night, he adds, is among the most technically demanding and intense tasks around: “It’s a lot like surgery, except it’s your life on the line. You need not just skills but an ability to handle pressure.”
Dr. Fox grew up in Ohio and majored in microbiology at The Ohio State University (OSU). Trained to fly the Lockheed S-3 Viking, an anti-submarine warfare aircraft, he was stationed in San Diego as a pilot and flight instructor for the next eight years. He served on the USS Nimitz and USS Kitty Hawk, traveling mainly to Western Pacific ports.
“It was a very enjoyable career in the cockpit, but then it was time to grow up and follow my medical school dreams,” he relates.
Dr. Fox graduated from OSU’s College of Medicine and remained with the Navy for a General Surgery Internship and Naval Flight Surgeon School. He was a Flight Surgeon for three years, based at Naval Station Norfolk and also serving NASA missions, before doing a residency in Orthopaedic Surgery at NMCP.
In 2004, Dr. Fox deployed to Kuwait for a year with the Naval Expeditionary Medical Force in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He returned home to complete an Orthopaedic Spine Surgery Fellowship at Duke University.
From 2006 to 2010, Dr. Fox was Chief of Orthopaedic Spine Surgery Services at NMCP. There, he developed a robust training program for Navy residents in his specialty, as well as for Physician Assistant students at Eastern Virginia Medical School. He still maintains an active role in training for NMCP orthopaedic residents.
During his 12 years at SMOC, Dr. Fox has filled critical care gaps in an underserved area of far-southwestern Tidewater. Many cases involve adults with degenerative spine conditions such as herniated discs and scoliosis. “Helping them is very rewarding,” he says.
In conjunction with Sentara Obici Hospital, Dr. Fox has helped found two centers dedicated to spinal surgeries and joint replacement. Currently, he is involved in efforts to develop a robotic spine surgery center in Western Tidewater. “The most advanced technology should be available to the entire population of our region,” he says.
Married for 36 years, Dr. Fox has two adult children and two grandkids. He enjoys motorsports and is an avid woodworker, most recently completing a cradle for his 1-year-old granddaughter. He still reflects often on his military experiences.
“The training you get is second to none,” he says, “as are the perspectives on life.”