Dr. Paul Buzhardt and his family love being close to relatives in Louisiana.

It took a lot of small steps for Dr. Paul Buzhardt to end up as an orthopaedic surgeon.

Growing up in Zachary, La., Buzhardt watched both of his parents manage successful careers as veterinarians. He thought that might be his career path as well. Then, he tore his ACL while playing high school soccer, which brought him, as a patient, into the world of orthopaedics.

“It kind of took me out of high school sports,” Buzhardt said. “But I gained a first-hand knowledge of ortho and I got to see the whole process and go through the recovery.”

Other factors were at play, as well. He was always strong at math and science. He enjoyed the idea of working with his hands as a surgeon. When his older brother went to medical school, Buzhardt realized he wanted to follow in his footsteps.

Buzhardt moved forward with his studies, including a residency in orthopaedic surgery at the University of Alabama – Birmingham and a fellowship in adult reconstruction surgery at Louisville Adult Reconstruction in Kentucky. Through that, he became a specialist in hip and knee replacements.

“I’ve always been a fixer,” Buzhardt said. “You take something that isn’t working well and you can re-arrange the whole thing and take away that patient’s pain. It’s a happy subspecialty. People tend to enjoy the results and the freedom they have to do what they want again. I find it very fulfilling to give people their lifestyle back.”

Buzhardt is always particularly gratified when he encounters a complicated case that results in a positive outcome.

“You take somebody who has been through multiple surgeries that didn’t work out for one reason or another, and you give that person their life back,” he said. “Those are the ones that are the most satisfying, personally. It’s always a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge.”

With his focus on knee and hip replacements, Buzhardt mainly treats patients who are 55 or older, but there are exceptions. He has done successful replacements on people as young as their 20s because of arthritis or trauma from accidents or fractures. He has also treated patients up into their 90s.

Buzhardt said that if he hadn’t gone into the medical field, he may have followed his love of cooking into the restaurant industry. A friend and he have always casually tossed around the idea of opening a restaurant, but for now, both are focused on their respective careers.

It was also a friend that led Buzhardt to Lafayette General. The friend, who had Lafayette connections, stayed with Buzhardt for a few weeks in Birmingham. Since Buzhardt and his wife were both from Louisiana, they started the conversation and embraced the chance to return to their roots.

“We had a good time in Birmingham, but we always wanted to move back,” Buzhardt said. “The opportunity was here and the added bonus is that we were able to start with a bunch of friends. There are three or four of us that have all been trained together and we’ve known each other for eight or 10 years and now we’re working together. It’s been an easy fit for us and our families.”

When he isn’t working, Buzhardt enjoys spending time with his wife, two daughters and their families.

“We’re back and forth between here and our families’ homes,” he said. “We do a lot of cooking. We enjoy being outside. We do a lot of hunting and fishing. LSU football is a fun thing for us to do. We’re tailgating or at most home games. Aside from that, it’s mostly chasing the kids around, doing birthdays and activities. It’s a fun lifestyle and we love being home.”