Paths to practice

Two doctors take roundabout routes to building pain clinic together in Chico

Dr. Brett Butz says the facility “dedicated to pain” should open around January.

Dr. Brett Butz says the facility “dedicated to pain” should open around January.

Photo by Evan Tuchinsky

Current location:
The Chico office of Interventional Pain Physicians, where Dr. Brett Butz and Dr. Daniel Bonis now practice, is at 631 W. East Ave. Call 720-0176.

On a parcel between Raley Boulevard and Skyway, with a surgery center as one neighbor and a physical therapy center as another, construction recently began on a 5,000-square-foot building to house the growing Chico practice of two interventional pain specialists.

Dr. Brett Butz, who participated in a site-dedication ceremony March 13, opened the Interventional Pain Physicians office in 2012. His partner is Dr. Daniel Bonis, who joined Butz at the Chico practice in 2016.

A fateful encounter laid the groundwork for the partnership. Only knowing of the other, the two met at a restaurant where a common acquaintance introduced them. They sat together, talked and clicked.

That serendipitous meeting didn’t happen anywhere near Chico, though—it was at an Italian restaurant in Alamogordo, N.M.

During the doctors’ “friendly chatter,” Butz recalled, “the subject of Chico came up,” and they were both surprised by their respective connections to the city. (Bonis’ brother is Dr. William Bonis, a hematologist with Enloe Cancer Services.)

They arranged to speak again and soon were in business together. The partnership solidified Butz’s plans to break ground on a new, comprehensive facility in Chico.

“It was kind of a little bit of a fluke … a lot of things in life happen that way,” Bonis said by phone from Southern California, where his family lives and he also treats patients.

Butz and Bonis have been rotating between their Alamogordo and Chico offices—each staying for a few weeks in the opposite city from where his partner is working. Should a third physician join them as expected in early 2018, that doctor would cover the New Mexico office to the extent that Bonis could focus on Chico and Butz could spend more time here as well. The new facility should be done in November and open around January.

Interventional Pain Physicians’ current local office, on West East Avenue, no longer can accommodate the practice’s needs, Butz explained at the construction site. The most conspicuous need is space to perform procedures such as targeted pain injections (see “Other than opioids,” Healthlines, April 28, 2016). Specialists often require imaging—X-rays or MRI scans—to direct them to the specific point for therapy; such large equipment can cramp quarters.

The new building has been designed with four suites: two offices, two procedure rooms. The procedure rooms will have the size and structure for surgeries; in pain management, those operations include implanting pain pumps and neurostimulators (i.e., pacemakers for pain). Butz said Interventional Pain Physicians will take just one of the office suites initially, potentially affording another doctor or practice the opportunity to move in, but will have sufficient demand for both procedure rooms.

“It’s built like a surgery center,” Butz said, “but it’s in the same building, part of the office…. It’s dedicated to pain.”

A key benefit, Butz explained, is saving time by not having to compete with other specialties to book appointments.

“Generally, we use two rooms all day long,” he said. “The bigger surgery centers have to accommodate orthopedic surgeons; some of their procedures last hours, so it takes up my time, because my [nonsurgical] procedures last about six minutes.”

Bonis calls the facility a “one-stop shop”—a model akin to the private practice in Alamogordo where he’s been working.

“I think the patients really like it,” he said. “Instead of having to go to a big hospital and check in, they can come to a smaller place that they don’t feel is quite so intimidating.”

Butz, unlike Bonis, had no connection to Chico when he first came and describes his path here as “a circuitous route, for sure.”

He’d been working for Atlanta-based Alliance Spine and Pain Centers since 2006, following several years in private practice performing both general anesthesia and pain management. Predominantly in the southeast, Alliance also had an office in Alamogordo; Butz went to work there. (Alliance sold that operation to Butz in January 2016.)

He heard about Chico through the grapevine of “the medical community” while seeking a place to plant his pain-management flag in Northern California.

“I didn’t know anything about Chico,” Butz said. However, after deciding that this was “a community that could benefit from another pain doctor,” he selected it as the location for his first independent venture. And he’s glad he did. “Having lived here for four years, I do love the town; it’s a great city,” he said. That’s why he’s making the investment.

Bonis, despite having a brother in Chico, likely would not have come to the North State if not for Butz—and his own circuitous route.

Bonis’ home base is Huntington Beach, where his wife is a high school chemistry teacher and his daughter a high school student. The Bonises have two older sons; the middle child, Nick, is a soccer player whose college aspirations brought Bonis to New Mexico.

Nick attended camps for NCAA Division I programs across California as well as at the University of New Mexico, where he felt a kinship with the coach. That motivated Bonis to move with Nick to Albuquerque so Nick, a goaltender, could develop his skills near his potential future school. The closest job for Bonis proved to be in Alamogordo, so he’d split time between those cities as well as having the home fires in Southern California.

Nick did not end up playing for the Lobos, so Bonis has no personal ties binding him to New Mexico. In fact, his daughter wants to study veterinary medicine at UC Davis.

Yet more irony: Until they got into conversation, Bonis didn’t know Butz had an office in Chico and Butz didn’t know Bonis had a brother in Chico.

“The sun and the planets aligned just right,” Bonis said. “Everything just seems to be working out.”