Scott Powell, MD: Singer Turned Surgeon Making a Difference for Others Here in Burbank

Dr. Scott Powell

By Dick Dornan
MyBurbank Sports Editor

From the music field to the field of medicine-it’s all about being there for others. While Dr. Scott Powell’s career in the music industry blossomed for 11 years as the original lead singer for the rock and roll group, Sha Na Na, it is his love for orthopedic surgery that marks his true devotion in life.

As the team physician for the United States Soccer Federation Women’s National team as well as the co-founder of Stetson Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Burbank, Dr. Powell has been a pillar of strength for many people in more ways than one.

Dr. Scott Powell
Scott Powell, MD

In 2005, Dr. Powell co-founded Stetson Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine with partner Bill Stetson. One visit to his office and you will feel the professional atmosphere, warm greetings and caring hospitality from Dr. Powell and his staff. Treating patients here in Burbank has been an enriching experience for him for the past eight years.

“These are my people. This is where my career started essentially in the entertainment industry. I performed on a lot of these stages: the Flip Wilson show, Jay Leno show, and Johnny Carson show,” Dr. Powell said. “It’s a great sense of pride being able to take care of people.”

Original Woodstock tickets (Photo by Ross A. Benson)
Original Woodstock tickets (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Dr. Powell attended Columbia College where he co-founded Sha Na Na. The talented group of young musicians traveled to shows on the road in front of 40,000 screaming fans to more than 500,000 people at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. In only their eighth gig as a group, Sha Na Na had the honor of playing right after Crosby, Stills and Nash and just before Jimi Hendrix during one of music’s greatest and most influential weekends in its storied history.

“You could only imagine what that would be like. We were offered $300 to play at Woodstocks. We would get to buy another amp,” said Dr. Powell, also known under the stage name of “Santini” in the Sha Na Na television syndicated variety series that ran from 1977 to 1981. “We spent the first 150 and the other 150 bounced. We never got paid the rest.”

Sha Na Na gold record (Photo by Ross A. Benson)
Sha Na Na gold record (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

No worries. After being the only group without a record deal at Woodstock, Sha Na Na made a name for themselves and 44 years later, the group today has released 18 albums with worldwide sales of more than 20 million. Dr. Powell was a member of the group from 1969 to 1980 and an actor on the Sha Na Na TV show for all four years that consisted of 97 episodes.

He also had the special opportunity to be in the movie, Caddyshack, where he interacted with Hollywood’s best comedians: Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight.

“They were the brightest and funniest people of my generation. It was a great experience,” Dr. Powell said. “But at one point I asked myself, ‘If I’m not doing this, what else would be interesting?’”

Dr. Powell's educational accomplishments (Photo by Ross A. Benson)
Dr. Powell’s educational accomplishments (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

His new career was born shortly thereafter. After attending the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, finishing an internship at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital and Residency in Orthopedics at Hospital for Joint Diseases and completing his fellowship in sports medicine at the well-known Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles, Dr. Powell ultimately took his business to serve the Burbank community, the media capital of the world.

“What’s unique about my practice is that I’ve been on the other side. I know what a grip is, what a stuntman goes through, seeing how hard they work,” he said.

The decision to leave the music and entertainment business for the field of medicine was a moment that made his life that much more rewarding for him, his wife Cynthia Boxrud, MD, son Evan, and daughter Jessica. The opportunity to interact daily with patients and to make a positive impact upon people’s lives became Dr. Powell’s personal calling.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to communicate with a person one on one. What really got me interested about the passion for medicine was the relationship you have with the person you are talking to,” Dr. Powell explained. “To me every day is really fun because I go into a room and people tell me their story. That’s what is really neat. They will tell you what’s wrong with them, what they want.

“I’m helping them get where they want to go. It’s really satisfying. They come, they visit, we fix them and off they go.”

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)
Memorabilia is displayed throughout the office (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Dr. Powell performs between 40 and 50 surgeries per month. Procedures such as repairing an ACL or meniscus tear in the knee, knee replacement, UCL elbow reconstruction (Tommy John surgery), shoulder repair (rotator cuff surgery and shoulder replacement) are just a few of his weekly operations.

From the days of going “under the knife” in surgery to now the common practice of arthroscopic surgery, Dr. Powell has witnessed first-hand the advancement of technology in medicine and where it is now possibly headed.

“When I trained under Frank Jobe, we opened a 10 to 12 centimeter incision on a shoulder.  Arthroscopics was in its infancy. Arthroscopics allowed us to see the anatomy from the inside. We started to realize that there are certain things causing pain because we were coming from the outside in instead of going from the inside out. That’s been a huge change,” said Dr. Powell, who is Board Certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery.

“The change I am seeing now is the advancement in orthobiologics: platelet rich plasma (PRP), stem cells. This is kind of the next horizon. Now can you do it without surgery?”

USA Women's Soccer (Photo by Ross A. Benson)
USA Women’s Soccer (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

When not in his Burbank office, Dr. Powell can be found traveling with the U.S. Women’s National soccer team. Currently they are ranked No. 1 in the world according to FIFA. He has traveled to the World Cup twice and will be preparing for the next Cup in Canada in 2015 as well as the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

As the team’s physician, he has seen up close the growth of women’s soccer and the national pride exhibited by the team.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)
Abby Wambach’s jersey and cleats (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“There is enormous pride to be able to represent your country and to help this great group of girls. I watched Abby Wambach grow up and saw newcomers like Alex Morgan become an immediate phenomenon,” Dr. Powell said. “To see the growth of the sport and to see the process of it go all the way through winning the Olympics twice is really great to be a part of.”

Though he has left his vocals behind for the brilliant use of his hands and medical intelligence, Dr. Powell still stays in touch with the world of music primarily through MusiCares which he established in 2009.

“I wanted to honor the memory of Pierre Cossette who produced the Grammys for 25 years. I wanted to do something to honor his memory and all he has done for music,” said Dr. Powell, who knew Cossette personally from the days when Cossette produced the Sha Na Na television show. “We wanted to build a center to take care of musicians. We expanded into a national medical network with centers in LA, Nashville, New York, Chicago and Seattle.”

Sha Na Na platinum records (Photo by Ross A. Benson)
Sha Na Na platinum records (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

The Pierre Cossette Center at Stetson-Powell provides free orthopedic care to musicians who cannot afford insurance.

The kindness and caring of Dr. Powell has been felt from his office in Burbank to the soccer fields of America to the MusiCare centers across the country.

When asked if he misses the days of singing, he responded-

“What I miss is when I see other people going on stage and the surge of energy by the crowd. You never forget that. It still sends a chill up my spine. The joy is being on stage. If you can distill that in a bottle I would drink it every day,” Dr. Powell said.

Here’s a toast to you, Dr. Powell. Thank you for being there for others.