Living with Pain is not an Option
Brandon Tolman, DO
Integrity Center for Regenerative Medicine
Born in: Portland, Oregon
Grew up in: San Francisco Bay area
University: Colorado State University, Virginia Tech (Post Graduate)
Medical school: West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine
Practicing medicine: 4 years
Lived in Nashville area: 4 years
Board Certified in: Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and Interventional Pain
Accolade: Only physician in the world performing The Discseel procedure of the Lumbar, Thoracic and Cervical Spine
How did you start in Medicine?
I was very active in sports when I was younger and after high school I got involved in more extreme sports such as mountain biking, wakeboarding and snowboarding. This led to some injuries and it really hit home when I blew my back out. I had ruptured my L4/5 disk and severe sciatic symptoms, so I went to see a physiatrist and she really changed everything for me and helped me get my life back. I multiple epidural steroid injections were what really allowed my nerve to calm down and help me recover. I was 26 years old at the time and the success that I had with these procedures changed my life and started me down the path of pursuing medicine. No one in my family is a doctor, and it still feels strange to me when people call me "doctor"... but my life was so changed through my personal experience with pain that I wanted to help others in the same way that I was helped. There is now the growing field of regenerative medicine offering procedures that I didn't have when I was going through my pain, but I am able to help my patients in ways that are more cutting edge such as stem cells, PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) and the Discseel procedure.
What is Discseel?
The Discseel® Procedure is a revolutionary, minimally-invasive procedure to treat chronic back pain resulting from damaged or torn spinal discs. An FDA-approved, 100% natural biologic called Fibrin is injected into the disc, which seals the tears and allows the body to begin healing. The Discseel® Procedure is a true alternative to a spinal fusion.
The Discseel® Procedure repairs damaged/torn spinal discs through the use of an FDA-approved biologic, Fibrin. Fibrin, which is a 100% natural biologic, is used to repair and seal off tears in your compromised discs. Spine surgeries, including spinal fusions and discectomies, can’t repair tears in the disc. First approved by the FDA to assist in facial reconstruction, for splenic repair following blunt trauma, and to control cardiac bleeding, Fibrin has proven to be an effective solution for tissue that cannot be sutured or ligatured together. The Discseel® Procedure uses the FDA-approved biologic, Fibrin in an off-label manner to repair the tears in damaged or degenerated spinal discs. Using a product in an off-label manner is commonplace in the practice of medicine and frequent examples include prescription medications being used to treat conditions beyond their original intent. Surgeons have attempted to suture damaged or torn discs in the spine without success. The disc tears prevent regenerative medicine therapies, such as stem cells and PRP to effectively repair the disc, as the biologic would seep out of the still-torn spinal disc. Over time, as your torn disc continues to leak, it can lose hydration and begin to degenerate. By using Fibrin, the Discseel® Procedure not only repairs the damaged and torn disc, but it also allows an individual’s body to replenish the lost cells with new cells, helping to restore the degenerated disc to a healthy state. Essentially, the goal of the Discseel® Procedure is to seal the tears and instigate healthy growth of new disc tissue to replace the damaged or lost tissue in an effort to stop the disc from leaking and inflaming the nerves. Dr. Tolman was carefully chosen by Dr. Kevin Pauza himself and trained to perfect the Discseel® Procedure.
There are only 15 physicians that can perform the Discseel procedure, and I am the only physician in the world that is currently performing Lumbar, Cervical and Throacic Discseel cases. I have patients that come across the country to have this procedure performed.
How do your life experiences make you a better physician?
My pursuit of medicine came out of my own experience as a patient, so I have an empathy for my patients who are experiencing pain. My family has also been a very important part of my experience. My parents instilled values in me teaching me to always be very respectful of others, caring and a good listener. These characteristics are extremely important in dealing with patients, especially as they are dealing with a great deal of pain. Because I started on my medical journey a little later in life I have worked in various jobs and that has allowed me to relate to people in ways that go beyond the doctor/patient connection.
What makes your business/practice unique in our community?
Being able to offer unique cutting-edge procedures like Discseel really does set our practice apart. Since I am the only physician in the Southeast who performs this procedure, it draws patients from other states who travel far to have the procedures performed. We also perform Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and Stem Cell Therapy along with the more traditional epidural steroid injections, joint injections, nerve blocks for patients who prefer to not pay for procedures that are unfortunately not currently covered by insurance.
What is your approach to dealing with pain?
I see it as a comprehensive and conservative approach. Unfortunately, sometimes patients get tossed around from one office to another. We take a comprehensive full body approach and use the patients’ history, physical examination, imaging, diet, exercise and social habits to formulate a plan that can improve the patient's quality of life.
What procedures have you seen the most success with?
We have seen excellent results with Discseel and even better results when combined with PRP and/or stem cells depending on the needs of the patient. When there is a ruptured/torn disc we are able to seal it with Discseel and then use PRP or stem cells to increase the regenerative process of the disk as they contain growth factors and cytokines as "fix it" molecules.
What are the benefits to stem cell therapy?
Stem cell therapy is very exciting as we can utilize the cells that enhance the body's ability to heal. When the body is not able to heal certain conditions on its own, we are able to help the heal the body as sometimes this can be an alternative to surgery.
How do you try and maintain a balanced life outside of work?
I believe it is very important to have balance between work and personal life. I enjoy traveling, spending time with friends and almost anything outside (mountain biking, wake surfing, snowboarding, golf, etc. My motto has always been, "Work hard, play hard". I go all-in at work, and then I love to have down time on the weekends.
What motivates you? (What gets you up in the morning?)
Getting patients better! The fact that I personally was able to get my life back really motivates me to pay that forward to others who are suffering. I can relate to what patients are going through. After treating them, they come back weeks or months later and thank me for getting their life back.
What methods do you employ to keep improving your knowledge and experience?
I read journals, talk to colleagues and attend various conferences in Regenerative Medicine and The American Osteopathic Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Who are some of your medical “hero’s”?
My Fellowship Director, Dr. Brian Kahan out of Annapolis, Maryland my hero. I was already interested in Regenerative Medicine and we performed a lot of procedures with PRP with excellent results. His motto was, "I will put a needle in anything if I can fix it." He really taught me how to assess each patient and if one procedure didn't work then try something else. He never gave up on any patients, and he would always figure out a way to help them. He is definitely my hero!
Getting to Know the Doc
Tell us about your family-
My mom & dad are still together and living in Houston, Texas. I have two brothers and two sisters spread throughout the country and we all get along really well. My family provided a great foundation for me.
What are some of your hobbies/interests outside of work?
I love spending time with my dogs. I have a 5-year-old Lab named Duke, a 2-year-old Boxer named Rhea and a French Bulldog puppy named Maui. I love being outside and on the water especially when it is nice out
What amazing adventures have you been on?
After college I went to New Zealand, Australia & Fiji for a four month expedition. I have been to 50+ countries. It's tough to pick a favorite, but I would say Fiji or the Maldives. I also spent two months hiking the Colorado Trail... just me and my Lab hiking 600 miles together over a few months.
Favorite Restaurants in Nashville?
Sushi & BBQ are my favorite types of food. Pegleg porker and Edly’s are my favorite BBQ places. O-Ku for Sushi in Germantown and Sunda in the Gulch. Steak at The Southern is also a favorite.
What is one thing about you that surprises people?
I'm an Eagle Scout.
Among your friends, what are you best known for?
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