After Over 50 Years in Medicine, Andrews Turns Over the Reins

Jan 10, 2024 at 06:21 pm by kbarrettalley

By Steve Spencer


After five decades in medicine, James Andrews, MD has announced his retirement from daily practice as of the end of 2023. To put his career in perspective, Lyndon Johnson was President when Andrews, who had been an SEC pole vault champion as an undergrad, entered the LSU School of Medicine. After completing an orthopaedic residency at Tulane in 1972, followed by surgical fellowships in sports medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and at  the University of Lyon in France, Andrews joined a practice in Columbus, Georgia before starting his Birmingham practice in 1986.

From there, the James Andrews story is so well-known as to almost be legend. Having performed more than 45,000 surgeries in his career, he’s helped some of the most elite athletes in the world: Bo Jackson, John Smoltz, Drew Brees, Charles Barkley, and Michael Jordan, just to name a few. What isn’t so well known, however, are the relationships Andrews has built with the numerous surgeons that he’s mentored, including Drs. Lyle Cain, Jeff Dugas, and Benton Emblom, who all practice at Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center.

“The first time I met Dr. Andrews, my impression was that he was a regular, everyday guy,” Cain said. “To this day, Dr. Andrews is a true Southern gentleman, and I believe that’s why patients have always liked and admired him.”

“Dr. Andrews really has been like a father in the business to me,” Dugas said. “He has always been one of those surgeons that exudes education. If you can’t learn from Dr. Andrews, you can’t be taught.”

Benton Emblom, MD agrees. “One of Dr. Andrews best skills was teaching us how to take care of people; how to take care of athletes; how to perform surgery and when not to perform surgery,” he said. “He trained us how to perform surgery, but Dr. Andrews was a master at knowing who not to operate on at certain times and who to operate on at other times. He was great at sharing that intuitive, decision making when we were fellows and later as colleagues.”

Cain said, “One of the many things that makes Dr. Andrews unique is that he realizes that the patient has a lot of influence on how things go with their recovery. One of Dr. Andrews mantras is ‘the patient is always right.’ If a patient tells you that they’re ready, that they’re recovered from rehab, and are back to normal, you have to take them at their word sometimes. Dr. Andrews has always been on the forefront of letting patients and patient improvement determine how athletes get back to sports, instead of using the standard, book answer. He would let the patient’s own experience, fears, and their own abilities help decide when they are physically and emotionally ready to get back to playing their sport.”

Drs. Cain, Dugas, and Emblom are just a few of the doctors who have learned from Andrews. “Dr. Andrews has trained many of the best orthopaedic surgeons in the world,” Cain said. “Through his fellowship programs,  he has trained more than 400 orthopaedic surgeons over the last 35 years.”

“Dr. Andrews is a phenomenal mentor,” Emblom said. “Even today, he’s always available for his patients and for his fellow doctors. If we ever need anything, we can call him and he picks up the phone. Dr. Andrews mentorship is an important part of what we do, and he has done an unbelievable job at helping us at, in turn, become mentors to the next generation of orthopaedic surgeons.

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April 2024

Apr 23, 2024 at 10:42 am by kbarrettalley

Your April 2024 Issue of Birmingham Medical News is Here!