Local surgeons celebrate 35 years of caring for the community

6 mins read

In celebration of the 35th anniversary of Beaufort Memorial Surgical Specialists, founding physician Dr. Tim Pearce treated himself to a perk he rarely enjoyed in the first three decades of his career – a full night’s sleep.

When the board-certified general surgeon opened shop as a sole practitioner Nov. 7, 1983, he joined Drs. Richard “Dick” Price and Charles “Tony” Bush as the only surgeons in private practice in the Beaufort area.

“Back then we did a lot of major traumas,” Pearce recalled. “It was a rare night when the pager didn’t go off. I would operate on a gunshot wound in the middle of the night, then go into the office the next day and see patients with perforated ulcers or gallbladder disease.” 

Now part of the Beaufort Memorial Physician Partners network, Surgical Specialists has come a long way since those early years when Pearce was on call 24/7, serving both Beaufort Memorial Hospital and the Naval Hospital. 

Today, the practice includes four general surgeons and the only vascular surgeon in Beaufort, as well as a nurse practitioner, a physician assistant and an additional staff of 11 medical assistants and administrators. 

Over the years, the team has adopted new approaches and advanced technology to improve patient outcomes. 

“When laparoscopic gallbladder surgery took off in the early ‘90s, we realized it was something we needed to learn,” Pearce said. “Patients did so much better with minimally invasive surgery. It was just stunning.” 

In recent years, several of the surgeons have received advanced training in the da Vinci Surgical System and now perform state-of-the art, robot-assisted procedures, including single-site gallbladder surgery, ventral and inguinal hernia repairs, colon resection and Nissen fundoplication for severe acid reflux disease. 

From the start, Pearce was always prepared to adjust the practice to meet the needs of the community. In 1989, he added his first partner, board-certified general surgeon Dr. Gordon Krueger, a former Navy surgeon who had been practicing in Manning. 

“The first office he put me in was a broom closet,” Krueger quipped. “We saw things 180 degrees differently, but we got along famously. Tim Pearce is the fairest partner you could have.”

Although the medical staff had doubled, the two surgeons were still as busy as ever, often working 80-hour weeks. With no physician assistants or nurse practitioners to help them in those days, it fell on Pearce and Krueger to respond to calls from both the ER and hospital floor nurses who needed help with post-op patients. 

“They were super heroes,” said Dr. Pearce’s wife, Brenda. “I don’t know how they managed it, except that they were totally dedicated to their work. Their patients always came first.”

As the community grew, so did the practice. In 1993, Dr. Perry Burrus joined the team of general surgeons, followed in 1998 by Dr. Stephen Sisco and in 2004 by Dr. Chad Tober, who is board-certified in both general and vascular surgery. 

Following the national trend of hospital-owned practices, Surgical Specialists was purchased by Beaufort Memorial Hospital in 2009. Two years later, they hired their first and only female surgeon, Dr. Deanna Mansker, fresh from completing her residency at the Medical University of South Carolina. 

“They were a very welcoming group,” Mansker said of her colleagues. “It was like having several big brothers. It’s intimidating leaving your residency and practicing on your own. They helped me make the transition.”

Next year, the team will work through another major change – an expansive renovation of the operating room.

“The new technology for minimally invasive surgery takes up a lot of room,” said Mansker, who chairs Beaufort Memorial’s robotics committee. “As part of the renovation, the operating rooms will be expanded in size, allowing us to stay at the forefront of surgical innovation.”

Krueger retired in 2012, one of only two surgeons to ever leave the practice. The rest of the Surgical Specialists team has been equally loyal. Pearce’s current certified medical assistant, Elisa Caldwell, has been with him for more than two decades.

“We’re a very close group,” Pearce said. “We’ve been together for a long time and are very supportive of each other.”

Photo at top: Beaufort Memorial Surgical Specialists Chad Tober, Stephen Sisco, Tim Pearce, Gordon Krueger, Deanna Mansker and Perry Burrus photographed together prior to Krueger’s 2012 retirement. When Pearce started the practice in November, 1983, he was only the third surgeon to join the hospital’s medical staff.

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