Dr. Jeff Poffenbarger is the only neurosurgeon in the Big Horn Basin. He joined Bighorn Medical Center and began treating patients in August of 2014.
From the first time a colleague allowed him to scrub in on a neurological surgery, Dr. Poffenbarger knew he wanted to become a neurosurgeon. One glimpse of the brain – and he was hooked.
Having earned his medical degree from Georgetown University Medical School in Washington, D.C., Dr. Poffenbarger then completed his Internship at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington and his Residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Poffenbarger courageously served his country for 22 years in the United States Army, acting as the Chief of Neurosurgery at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, as well as Theatre Chief of Neurosurgery in Baghdad, Iraq. Along with many other military decorations, the United States of America awarded Dr. Poffenbarger for his skill and bravery with the Bronze Star Medal.
When Dr. Poffenbarger left the Army in 2005, he considered job opportunities nationwide, settling on Fredericksburg, Virginia. However he soon began to feel the need to get “farther away,” leaving the traffic jams of the DC area to serve a more rural setting.
“Serving rural communities is why I became a neurosurgeon,” Dr. Poffenbarger says. “It’s why I was in Baghdad for 14 months. I like to take what I do out of the big cities and move it to the regular people where they have access to it.”
When Dr. Poffenbarger heard about a job opportunity in Cody, he “jumped all over it,” determined to find a way to make it work. He and the town of Cody already shared a special connection dating back before his days as a surgeon to those of a Yamaha motorcycle mechanic.
“When you’re working in a motorcycle shop, you take your vacation in the fall,” Dr. Poffenbarger explains. “I would do a motorcycle tour of the U.S., and I loved Yellowstone. I’d go through the four gates, leaving the East Gate and coming through Cody almost every year.”
When he first met with the three orthopedic surgeons at Bighorn Medical Center, Dr. Poffenbarger felt an instant sense of camaraderie.
“We sat there for over two hours talking about guns, cattle, horses, and aviation. We were fast friends,” Dr. Poffenbarger says. “Your partners are like your spouse, you have to get along. We all got along, and they seemed like my kind of people.”
A Board Certified neurosurgeon in the Big Horn Basin means closer, better care for patients.
“When people travel or are transported long distances for care, outcomes are sometimes less because every time there’s a handoff,” says Dr. Poffenbarger. “Keeping care right here with a face to face handoff means a real benefit to the patients. They are fortunate not to have to travel to Billings, Casper, or Salt Lake.”
Though Dr. Poffenbarger feels he is “equally blessed from the equation.”
“I’m just as benefitted because I’m lucky to be here. I’m dealing with healthy, hardworking, diligent, salt of the earth people. The ones who made America what it is,” Dr. Poffenbarger says. “On the east coast, I worked in a huge trauma patient center. Here when I see trauma, it’s someone thrown from a horse or exited from a four-wheeler at high speed.”
Dr. Poffenbarger has four children, all attending Brigham Young University. In addition to family, other loves include reading books and scriptures, working wood, shooting handguns, practicing archery, and riding horses as well as his Harley.
“I love my Harley,” says Dr. Poffenbarger. “It’s freedom, just flying down the road.” As for horses, he enjoys saddling up and simply “pointing it in one direction.” Horses are on the horizon for Dr. Poffenbarger’s 80 acre spread in Wapiti … just as soon as a fence is in tact, a water tank attained, and a loafing shed put up.
Dr. Poffenbarger believes in proactivity in all aspects of life, especially in patient care.
“My model is an extremely interactive team approach, and my clinic is a place for people who are willing to play on a team where we are co equals,” Dr. Poffenbarger explains. “Patients are informed, making decisions, and suggesting things. They are truly team participants in getting better, and they have better ownership of their health.”
Patient empowerment and taking the time to ensure it are paramount to Dr. Poffenbarger’s practice.
“I book 45 minutes for new patients so I can sit down and ask if there is anything else about you or your pain I need to know before I examine you,” Dr. Poffenbarger ensures. “It’s the patient’s forum at that point, and that’s important.”
The nervous system affects the health and vitality of every bodily system.
“In my humble view, the central nervous system is who you are,” Dr. Poffenbarger says. “You can’t treat your brain and spine in isolation. My mantra is, ‘I’m going to treat the whole patient.’”
Board Certified in Neurosurgery by American Board of Neurological Surgery
Course completion in complex spinal instrumentation and Gamma Knife training at the Barrow Neurologic Institute
Published neurological papers, abstracts, and book chapters
Presented at various national neurological conferences and meetings