Chehalis Surgeon Retires After 22 Years With Washington Orthopedic Center


Dr. Scott Slattery said he’s like a lot of surgeons in that his pre-surgery ritual occurs at the sink while he is quietly going through his thorough hand washing routine — mentally preparing for the surgery ahead.

With over two decades and over 10,000 surgeries with the Washington Orthopedic Center in the books, Slattery, a Chehalis resident, has announced his retirement. He has practiced orthopedic medicine at WOC locations in Centralia, Olympia and Elma.

Slattery graduated with a B.S. in biochemistry, was accepted into medical school and then the Air Force — receiving a scholarship to attend medical school.

“When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to do something science-wise, and then as I got into college and went a little further, I decided that medicine was something I was interested in. It seemed like a good way to combine my interest in science as well as be interactive with people instead of just being stuck in a lab,” he said.

While in the Air Force he earned his Flight Medical Credentials. He was assigned to a flying squadron and he traveled, flew and trained with the pilots.

“The primary job is to take care of the pilots and then take care of the pilots’ families. If they feel that the pilots have one surgeon that they know, then they will trust the doctor more and there will be better care,” he said. “When you fly with them it builds a bond and you understand some of the stresses that they are under when they are in the air.”

After he completed five years of active duty with the Air Force, Slattery and his wife started looking for a place to live and raise their family. He discovered WOC in the Twin Cities and moved to Chehalis in 1999. 

“When you first come out of training, it is an adjustment when you start working on your own and not having anybody that you know to look over your shoulder. It’s up to you — whatever happens now, it’s completely your responsibility. It’s getting used to that and those mental hurdles,” he said. 

Beginning in 2006, Slattery was selected to serve as a physician for the U.S. Ski Team. 

“I went to some ski races in Austria one year and basically traveled with the ski team and was there to make sure they are doing OK medically, and also you’re observing the races in case there are any accidents and injuries on the racecourse,” he said.

Nowadays, Slattery works with patients who need arthritic knee, shoulder or hip replacements, and patients with sports-related injuries such as repairing torn ACLs, rotator cuffs or dislocated knee caps.

Slattery said the best way for him to deal with the stress of the job is to make sure he has a robust life outside of work. He also makes sure to spend time with his family and do some form of exercise. 

“Being prepared helps too. If there’s something new or challenging — you still have to study. It’s not like school is completely over. If cases come up that are more challenging, I’ll review them the night before,” he said. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, the WOC was shut down for about two months and only did emergency surgeries until about June. The surgeons were providing care via telehealth for a bit but Slattery said that it wasn’t practical for the type of work he does. He needed to feel the joints and check for motion — and surgeries just can’t be conducted virtually.

At the conclusion of his time with WOC on Dec. 31, Slattery decided to pull a 180 and work at a ski resort in Sun Valley, Idaho with his wife. He said his skills as a surgeon are the best they have ever been. He decided to go out on top, saying it feels a bit like retiring after winning the championship.

“For right now, for the next four months or so, I plan to go get a minimum wage job at a ski area working as a mountain host — helping people out on the mountain and being outside — try out a completely different type of job,” he said.

For Slattery, the satisfaction of a job well done is what brings him joy in his work — the sense of  accomplishment he gets from fixing a torn ACL or replacing a bad joint and the reward of getting to build relationships with his patients along the way.

“When we first moved here everyone was very friendly and welcoming. It’s such a good group of people and a great place to raise a family. We have positive feelings for the area,” he said.