A Will to Serve

News Archive (2009)

A Will to Serve.

By: Wanda Robert

In 2007, a meeting between doctor and patient proved to be the first step on a journey of transformation. 

The CORE Institute's Jason J. Scalise, MD is proud to have played a part in the future of one of our nation's heroes. The patient, Anthony (Toni) Brewer sat with us to share his inspiring story of determination.


Becoming a Marine is a transformation that cannot be undone."  (www.marines.com)  

Anthony (Toni) Brewer is a young man who understands the importance of hard work and reaching out to his community.  Growing up in Paradise Valley, Arizona, Brewer followed in the footsteps of his father, an officer with the Phoenix Police Department.  He began volunteering with the department at the age of 12.  It seemed obvious to everyone that after his graduation from Phoenix Christian High School he would enter a career in public safety.  The surprise came when rather than becoming a police officer; Brewer decided that he wanted to become a United States Marine.  

As a football and basketball player in high school, the athletic Brewer prepared to pass the medical evaluation portion of the Marine's processing.  It was through this medical evaluation, however, that his past shoulder injuries were brought to the forefront once again.  By speaking with Toni, the medical examiner discovered that for the past five years, his left shoulder would occasionally dislocate.  Following the evaluation at the Marine Entrance Processing Station, medical staff suggested that Brewer join a branch of the military that was not as "physically demanding" as the Marine Corps.  The Marines dismissed Toni and stopped him from enlisting, stating medical reasons. Undeterred, Brewer was not ready to give up on his dream.  The Marines understood his determination to join this elite group of men and women who serve the United States. Toni added, "The Marines said if I really wanted to pursue a career in the military, I needed to have surgery on my shoulder." 

Enter Jason J. Scalise, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with The Center for Orthopedic Research and Education in Phoenix, Arizona.  Dr. Scalise specializes in shoulder injuries and complex shoulder issues, having trained and worked at the renowned Cleveland Clinic before joining The CORE Institute.  Dr. Scalise evaluated Brewer in November 2007 for his chronic shoulder instability.  After a physical exam and MRI, Brewer was diagnosed with recurrent shoulder instability and a Bankart lesion.  A Bankart lesion is a tear of the labrum the lining of the socket of the shoulder.  This occurs when the shoulder is dislocated and can cause instability, pain, acatching sensation and an increased likelihood of future dislocations.   

Dr. Scalise noted that this "recurrent instability will prohibit" the high level of activity Brewer would need to maintain as a Marine.  After considering many possible treatments and the possible risks of surgery, for Brewer the solution was obvious -- the arthroscopic Bankart repair procedure. He wanted his shoulder fixed and believed that Dr. Scalise was the surgeon to do it. 

At Paradise Valley Hospital on December 17, 2007, Dr. Scalise performed an arthroscopic Bankart repair on Brewer's left shoulder.  The procedure took one hour and included an evaluation of his shoulder through the arthroscopic camera.  Through the small incisions, both camera and instruments were able to repair the torn labrum back to its anatomic location on the front edge of the shoulder socket and thereby restoring stability to Brewer's shoulder.  

"Mr. Brewer's surgery went extremely well.  He had a classic tear of the labrum which the arthroscopic camera showed well.  We were able to obtain a very robust labral repair.  It is interesting that a seemingly small disruption in the normal anatomy can have such profound consequences on an individual's shoulder function; and in this case, his aspirations."  After Dr. Scalise did his part repairing the tear and customizing Brewer's rehabilitation program, the job fell to Brewer to do the hard work of recovery.  A large part of this process involved physical therapy to help improve the shoulder's range of motion, improve strength and restore function.  Six weeks after surgery, Brewer began his physical therapy regimen.  Before the procedure, Dr. Scalise explained that recovery could take as long as six to seven months and there was always a chance that the shoulder may not heal properly, preventing complete recovery and function.  However, with the same energy and commitment he uses to face all challenges, Brewer tackled his rehabilitation head on – completing his rehab in ¾ the time prescribed by Dr. Scalise.  While admitting that recovery was one of the "hardest times in my life", Brewer was able to pass his physical and join the Marines on schedule. 

On June 6, 2008 Brewer graduated from boot camp at M.C.R.D. Camp Pendelton, San Diego, as his platoon's second squad leader.  This earned him a meritorious promotion to private first class.  Shortly after his graduation, PFC Brewer paid a visit The CORE Institute.  Dr. Scalise told Brewer, "Good to hear your shoulder has kept up with the rest of you." 

From the successful completion of boot camp, Brewer's next step was Iwakuni, Japan on a two year tour.  He keeps in touch with Dr. Scalise via email and during a recent trip state-side to get married, Brewer summed up his experience by saying "I had a major obstacle to overcome so I could pursue my dream of being a Marine. I can't thank Dr. Scalise enough for his efforts. He has changed the course of my career, and more importantly, my life".