“If You Build it, They will Come…”
It started with one. One doctor. One registered nurse. One staff member to handle patient check-in, billing and scheduling. One small family. One common goal to make a positive impact on the city of Montgomery.
Dr. David Herrick, “The Visionary,” began his medical career in 1992 proudly serving as an anesthesiologist with the United States Air Force in his hometown of Montgomery on Maxwell Air Force Base. Serving in the military was an unforgettable experience for Dr. Herrick, where his respect for those fighting for our freedom grew tenfold. Following his time at Maxwell, he worked in the private sector for two years before deciding to fulfill his dream of opening his own practice. Physicians specializing in pain management are few and far between due to the challenges associated with the specialty, but this was not going to scare or discourage Dr. Herrick. He saw a need and was inspired to help hard-working Alabamians who had done serious bodily damage as a result of their professional dedication. And so his journey began.
First things first, he needed a staff. Two ladies stood out to Dr. Herrick from Jackson Hospital and the Montgomery Surgical Center that he was determined to have on his opening team: Ann Ryals, Registered Nurse, and jack-of-all-trades Michelle “FeFe” Fefelov. Both were happy with their current positions, but in Ann’s words, “Herrick was persistent!” and they eventually conceded. On June 27, 1997, the three OGs opened the doors to The Center for Pain of Montgomery. Things were running smoothly and the practice began to grow, creating the need for a fourth employee. Kelly Wilson, MSN, was the obvious choice, having worked with Ann at Jackson Hospital and growing up with Dr. Herrick at First Baptist Church.
Their success continued, and the next move would be adding a new medical provider. Dr. Herrick laughs as he reminisces over the first day meeting the fifth addition to their team on his last day actively serving, “Brad walked in. I threw him the keys to the office at Maxwell and walked out,” completely unaware of the impact Dr. Katz would have on his future practice. Dr. Brad “Mr. GQ” Katz, joined The Center for Pain of Montgomery team in 1999, bringing a totally new dynamic to the group. He is not afraid to tell it like it is and ask tough questions to ensure every decision being made is for the betterment of the practice.
The Center for Pain’s success train did not show any signs of slowing down, so the decision was made to add a third physician in 2013. “The most interesting man in the world,” Dr. Aaron Shinkle, was the next addition to the team. The man with a surprisingly quiet demeanor has spent time doing things like fighting forest fires and breaking wild mustangs. Coming out of his medical school fellowship there were many opportunities for Shinkle, but he decided to join the gang at The Center for Pain due to the excellent clinicians and educators there with his same work ethic.
And then there were four. Dr. Casey Long, “New Kid on the Block,” met Dr. Herrick through his residency program with the University of Alabama Birmingham. His dry wit and down-to-earth nature made him the perfect fit for the CFP squad in 2015. When asked about their secret to success, Long responded, “I’m not sure if this is necessarily a secret to success, but we all have the same mindset that just works. Everyone is laid back, and no one thinks they are any better than the other.”
To sum up The Center for Pain, Dr. Katz says it best, “We are real people helping real people”. After meeting various members of the staff, I realized Katz absolutely hit the nail on the head. The physicians do not have their own offices nor do they have “Dr. X” on their nametags. The clinic has been taking pictures of their patients upon initial visit since the day they opened, in order to develop deeper relationships and recognize patients as individuals and not just a number. In the past, the staff has gathered together in December to hand address over 1,000 invitations to their annual Christmas party which is always held at the Montgomery Marina. The Center for Pain sponsors and donates time to various community events and organizations like the American Cancer Society’s Best Dressed Ball, Eat South, and several local sports teams in Montgomery, Prattville, Millbrook, Auburn and Alexander City. They make it a point to “roll out the red carpet” for patients who are both active or retired military along with our city’s first responders.
It may have started with just one, but The Center for Pain has organically grown into many, now employing over 95 staff members at four locations in Montgomery, Prattville and Auburn. A remarkable fifteen employees have worked there fifteen years or more. June 27, 2017, marked the 20th anniversary for The Center for Pain Montgomery’s practice. Congratulations to Dr. Herrick and his team, and thank you for all you do for the River Region and for the positive impact you all continue to make on our community!
When talking with the staff about what makes them proud to work at The Center for Pain, Michelle loves that their doctors say “yes” to any physicians who call needing guidance without knowing the challenges associated with the patient. Ann loves that the doctors are down to earth and friendly, always treating everyone the same. Kelly remembers when they started in a tiny office with orange and blue charts, a Polaroid camera and a few other office essentials, yet after all these years and so much growth, the team still feels like a close family.
“I have been incredibly blessed to have Dr. David Herrick as my pain management physician and more importantly a true friend for more than 10 years. I'm a 100% disabled veteran and because of his professional anesthesiologist acumen, patience, persistence and his unequivocally caring attitude, I am able to have quality of life, that I am convinced I would not have if it were not for him. He is genuinely humble, always approachable, professional and consistently demonstrates an even temperament. Dr. Herrick has the unique ability to always make individuals feel that they have his full attention and his focused on them, their issues, regardless of how busy he is at the time. He treats everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of their diversity or background.”