Mike Darnell, D.O., an orthopedic surgeon with Payson Regional Bone & Joint and a third-degree black belt with several artificial joints, practices what he preaches.
“I push and teach exercise. If you do more, you will need me less,” Darnell said.
He sends 85-year-olds to the gym to pump iron — both before and after any surgery.
He keeps area gyms loaded and gives his patients a workout program.
“We can rebuild muscles at any age and it’s good for brain health,” he said.
Darnell does not believe in “passive medicine” or narcotics. He will prescribe prescription pain medication sparingly and always combines it with other complementary medication to help a patient’s recovery.
“I’m a strong proponent of exercise and always have been. There are three kinds of exercises we all need to do, stretching, cardio vascular and strengthening,” he said.
Darnell has had several orthopedic surgeries himself, but continues to exercise regularly, and has a third-degree black belt in Chinese Karaho Kemp, a kind of street fighting. He also loves downhill skiing and golf, is a member of the Tonto Rim Sports Club and is a member of the International Practical Shooting Confederation.
He started his medical career as a physical therapist and worked evenings as a surgical orderly. He learned to tie surgical knots and decided he could do the work of an orthopedic surgeon, so he went back to medical school at the age of 31.
A native of Grand Junction, Colo., he studied and spent most of his career in Utah. He came to Payson about four years ago. Darnell said he did his internship in Phoenix, so he knew the area and when he decided he wanted a more laid-back practice, he moved to Payson four years ago.
“I like Arizona, but I don’t do heat,” he said.
Besides all his sports activities, Darnell and some of the area’s physical therapists have a band — Backdraft — which plays classic rock. He has played the guitar since he was 15, so he has helped his fellow band members expand their repertoire. Also in the group are Scott Nossek, Steve Thompson and Mike Crossman.
Darnell served as the team physician for the Utah Grizzlies and continues to help local teams.
He also has had the opportunity to travel. As a young man, he went on an LDS mission to Italy, fell in love with the country and has returned several times. He has vacationed in Turkey, Switzerland and Poland.
In Turkey, he recalls standing on a hill in Istanbul in the ruins of a pagan temple and a Catholic church. Builders used stones from the ancient temple to later build the church and then an active mosque. With a strong interest in archaeology, he said that experience was extraordinary.
His advice to everyone to keep out of his office and off his surgery table, “Get in shape, lose weight, quit smoking and drinking.”