Orthopedic surgeons remember Champ L. Baker Jr., MD, a pioneer in sports medicine

April 11, 2022

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Champ L. Baker Jr., MD, leader and innovator in sports medicine and arthroscopy, died on March 18 at 75 years of age.

Baker received his undergraduate and medical degrees from Louisiana State University prior to completing his orthopedic surgery residency at Letterman Army Medical Center while on active duty in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, according to a press release from the Arthroscopy Association of North America. Baker’s obituary noted he completed his sports medicine fellowship at the Hughston Clinic in 1979 prior to joining the staff in 1982, where he remained until his retirement.

Champ L. Baker Jr.

Champ L. Baker Jr.

In addition, Baker served as president of the Hughston Clinic from 1994 to 2000 and served as chair of the board of directors of the Hughston Foundation and as program director of the Hughston Sports Medicine Fellowship, according to his obituary. Baker was also an orthopedic professor at Tulane University School of Medicine and at the Medical College of Georgia.

An active member of many professional societies, his obituary noted he served as an officer or committee member of numerous societies and served as president of the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, Southern Orthopedic Association, Georgia Orthopedic Society, and Georgia Shoulder and Elbow Society. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the AOSSM and honored with the George D. Rovere Award for his contribution to sports medicine education. The obituary added Baker received the Distinguished Southern Orthopedist Award from the Southern Orthopedic Association and the President’s Challenge Award from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.

Orthopedic professionals mourn

Kurt P. Spindler

Kurt P. Spindler

From my point of view, what I remember about Champ Baker is that he was a true gentleman to everyone he met, both inside of medicine and outside of medicine. He was always willing to talk to anyone, help anyone [and] mentor anyone – whether you were a medical student, resident, fellow or colleague – and, to me, that was one of the special things about him. He was an outstanding surgeon and physician both in his community and for his teams, and for the AOSSM.

Kurt P. Spindler, MD
Director, Clinical Research and Outcomes
Cleveland Clinic Florida Region
President, AOSSM
Professor of Surgery, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
Director, Outcomes Management Evaluation
Co-director, Musculoskeletal Research Center

Champ Baker was always willing to help out when asked. He was an active member of so many organizations. He truly enjoyed being a sports medicine physician and all his involvement. His big shoes will need to be filled. We will all miss his presence at our meetings and activities. Champ, thank you for all you did.

Douglas W. Jackson, MD
Chief Medical Editor Emeritus, Orthopedics Today

I am fortunate to have been able to call Champ Baker a friend and associate for some 50 years. While we were both from Louisiana, he also attended Louisiana State University (LSU), LSU School of Medicine and completed his residency at LSU School of Medicine.

James R. Andrews

James R. Andrews

As it turned out, he followed me in the orthopedic world. He was fortunate to have been a sports medicine fellow under Dr. Jack C. Hughston in 1978, when I was an associate at the Hughston Clinic. Following that training, they became one of the true educators and innovators in the sports medicine world. He practiced at the Hughston Clinic his entire professional career and succeeded Dr. Hughston as the director of the sports medicine program and research endeavors.

He traveled the world as an ambassador of not only the Hughston Clinic, but also as a representative of the leadership of the AOSSM. Throughout his lifetime of service, he received numerous certificates of appreciation, as well as various plaques and awards for his service to the medical profession, his community and to his country.

He was a loving and caring family man having left behind his beloved wife Sue Anne, their children and multiple grandchildren. Champ always greeted everyone with a smile and a positive attitude.

He firmly believed the commandment “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matthew 22:39). Champ left us all too soon and worked right up until he was called home to eternal rest.

May he rest in peace.

James R. Andrews, MD
The Andrews Institute

Speaking both as a friend (one of many) and as a member of the sports medicine community, I can simply say that Champ was a giant, not only in stature but also in the significance of the contributions he gave to his profession, a profession to which he was totally dedicated.

Champ’s devotion to sports medicine in terms of education, mentoring and leadership won him a spot in the coveted AOSSM Hall of Fame. In addition, I was honored to select him for the Robert Leach Sports Medicine Leadership Award in 2010, a high honor given annually to a member of our society in recognition and appreciation for his or her outstanding and meritorious service to sports medicine throughout the world. Champ, as a mentor and an educator, has influenced hundreds of physicians about taking better care of their patients. He constantly emphasizes that medicine is both an art and a science. Just as Dr. Hughston, his mentor, taught Champ how to make every patient feel special, he, in turn, taught that to his students, residents and fellows. Champ Baker not only taught sports medicine, he also demonstrated how to be a caring, compassionate human being. He generously donated his time to the underserved here in the Columbus community. What he loved, maybe more than anything, was being on the side of the games, whether it was a local high school game or a major Division I game – didn’t matter.

In closing, I will say that Champ’s memories will live on with his wife, his children and grandchildren but also with me, all his myriad of close friends and the entire professional world that he not only touched but greatly influenced.

Champ, I am so grateful to have known you. Thank you for your friendship.

Peter A. Indelicato, MD
Emeritus professor and head team physician
Department of orthopedic surgery and sports medicine
University of Florida

References:

  • AANA mourns the loss of orthopedic sports medicine legend Champ L. Baker Jr., MD. https://www.aana.org/AANAIMIS/Members/News/AANA-Mourns-the-Loss-of-Orthopaedic-Sports-Medicine-Legend-Champ-L-Baker-Jr-MD.aspx?WebsiteKey=10f6eed0- bcab-4019-8f57-18dad8aaf2d7. Published March 24, 2022. Accessed April 8, 2022.
  • Dr. Champ L. Baker Jr. obituary. https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/columbus-ga/champ-baker-10637254. Published March 19, 2022. Accessed April 8, 2022.

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