Napa Spotlight Magazine, February 2018
The Napa Medical Research Foundation is delighted to share Napa Spotlight’s recent cover article featuring Dr. Marko Bodor and his family, published by Best Version Media.
Dr. Bodor: Solver of Great Medical Mysteries
By Jess Lander
Photo Credit: Bob McClenahan
Dr. Marko Bodor’s father was a pediatrician, but there was an even deeper reason for him taking a medical path as well. He wanted to contribute to his community in an impactful way.
“My dad was definitely an influence. He told me that when you’re a doctor, you’re always going to be busy, and that turned out to be very much true,” he laughed. “But when I was little, I used to visit my grandparents on the farm. I liked seeing how everything was interconnected. You grow wheat and corn, and then you take it to the mill. You make the flour, and go to the baker to buy the bread. There was a sense of understanding of how the world worked. I always wanted to be part of a community and play a role in it, and that turned out to be true.”
He didn’t take the pediatrician route like his dad, instead going into rehabilitation medicine. His interest in performance stemmed from his days competing in track and field in junior high and high school. “I was interested in how our bodies worked, what made us run faster, jump farther and be stronger,” he said. “I did not sustain many injuries, so I was more interested in how to improve performance. Had I had a lot of fractures, I might have gone into orthopedic surgery. But I was interested in how muscles contract, how nerves fire and how we move, more so than what you do about a fracture, for instance.” Dr. Bodor attended Harvard College and then the University of Cincinnati for Medical School. He was working at hospitals in Boston in 1995 when he got a call offering a bigger opportunity to be community-oriented. He was recruited as Interim Medical Director for the Acute Rehabilitation Unit at Queen of the Valley in Napa. It was only supposed to be for a month. “We liked each other so much, that they invited me to be Medical Director there. I was for two years, and have been affiliated with them ever since,” he said.
Besides, Napa suited him.
“I like that it’s friendly and everybody is interconnected. It has that small town feel, yet we’re close to a big city, and close to Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada’s, where I like to go on the weekends,” he said. “It’s a great place to be with the excitement of the Bay Area, yet have the relaxed lifestyle of Napa and outdoor activities of Northern California.” And finally, California brought him to one very important person in his life, his wife Jackie. The pair met at a fundraising event for the Croatian Scholarship Fund. Both are Croatian, and Bodor was born there, moving to the U.S. with his family when he was in first grade. The Bodors married in 2002 and today they live in Silverado Highlands with their three children, Julia (14), Maria (12) and Luka (8).
Dr. Bodor started his private practice, The Bodor Clinic, in 2008. The patients he sees are those who have seemingly run out of solutions for their problem. “My role is to figure out mysteries. When someone has seen several specialists and nobody knows what’s wrong, I’m asked to consult, to figure out what is wrong, and why they’re having pain, weakness, why their balance is off, etc. When there’s an obvious problem, we typically don’t get asked to get involved,” he said.
But while the clinic is his day job, his biggest passion lies in his after-hours work for his research foundation, which aims to find better ways of diagnosing and treating a range of orthopedic and neurological problems. Founded in 2014 as a 5013c nonprofit – much in thanks to the support from founding members Michael F . Jackson, philanthropist and Chairman of the Board, and Edward Fletcher Eyster, MD and leading neurosurgeon – the Napa Medical Research Foundation (NMRF) is where Bodor can make not just a huge impact on his community, but also worldwide.
The stated NMRF Vision is: To make less painful, less costly medical care available to patients through improved diagnosis and treatment utilizing regenerative medicine and minimally invasive procedures. Bodor assembled a small team and the foundation has since made several groundbreaking discoveries. For instance, he and Enoch Montalvo, an RN from St. Helena Hospital, figured out that vaccinations like the flu and pneumonia shot can cause injury to the shoulder. “That was one of our first research projects, discovered right here in St. Helena, which we did because we had some patients come and complain after vaccinations,” he s aid. “We found that there was an injury to the actual rotator cuff and structures around the shoulder that caused what’s called a frozen shoulder.” Dr. Bodor’s research has also helped athletes in youth sports in Napa reduce the prevalence of Sever’s Disease, pain in their foot that involves the Achilles tendon, plantar fascia and bone. His daughter even had it. “We figured out the problem is not with the growth plate, but in fact was that the collagen fibers were getting overloaded as the child was growing. Traditional treatment is to immobilize the foot, but instead of immobilizing, you need to condition those fibers. We’ve cured 95 percent of kids who have had intermittent problems with this.” NMRF is actively recruiting patients for a randomized controlled trial of a new treatment compared to the old treatment.
He even has high hopes that one of his discoveries – laid out in a paper that he spent more than 500 hours working on – will lead to better treatments and a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most common lethal genetic disease of childhood, affecting one in 5,000 boys. Dr. Bodor developed a mathematical model indicating that the primary reason for the decline is increasing the load on muscle fibers, and not inflammation. “My goal with all of these projects is to help patients in our community, and then to help other athletes, like the kids who play soccer, and also, even help those with unusual and rare disorders, like Duchenne muscular dystrophy,” he said.
Moreover, the foundation is currently working on research related to regenerative medicine, and has had great success so far treating disc injuries, by injecting platelets into the injury to help the discs heal. Platelets are the first responders to injuries, forming clots and bridging gaps in tissues, and can be used to help heal chronic injuries. The foundation was the first to publish a paper on the use of platelets for low back pain secondary to disc injuries in 2014. “Everyone is excited about [regenerative medicine]. It’s more about optimizing the healing potential that we already have,” he said. “The most rewarding thing is that disc pain is something we really have no treatment for and now we have some options. It’s not a new tire, but repairing the old one with just one injection.”
And while his work with the foundation is essentially a second job that means a lot of late nights and often working on the weekends, the print he’s leaving on the world is well worth it – and his father would likely agree. “I would say, definitely most doctors in private practice do not do research. I’m following in my father’s footsteps,” said Bodor, who’s father was in private practice when he won the Practitioner Research Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics for the discovery of Conjunctivitis-Otitis Syndrome, showing in some cases an eye and ear infection can be related and spread from one family member to another.
“I was inspired by my dad and I think it’s only natural that I want to solve problems that have evaded everyone else. I try extra hard and don’t give up until I solve it.”
Reduce Pain. Increase Mobility + Function. Improve Quality of Life.
All the research conducted through the Napa Medical Research Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is fully funded through generous donations received from individuals and family foundations.