Distinguished Sports Medicine Doctor Champ Baker Dies at 75 | Orthopedics This Week
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Distinguished Sports Medicine Doctor Champ Baker Dies at 75

Champ Leroy Baker, Jr., M.D. / Courtesy of AANA

Internationally and nationally renowned sports medicine and orthopedic doctor Champ Leroy Baker, Jr. M.D., passed away on March 18, 2022, at the age of 75, in Columbus, Georgia.

A pioneer in sports medicine, Baker developed several procedures which are still used today including arthroscopic surgery for tennis elbow and hip bursitis. He was also a significant force at The Hughston Foundation and Clinic.

Hughston spokeswoman Kathleen Gibson told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, “Dr. Baker has had such a great impact on the Hughston organization and will be truly missed. Please keep the Baker family in your thoughts and prayers as they go through this difficult time.”

Baker was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, on August 3, 1946, to the late Champ L. Baker, Sr. and Astrid Hiie Baker, a nurse. His mother was his inspiration for his medical career.

At first, he had hoped to have a career in basketball and played his first year at Louisiana State University. His aspirations, however, changed in his sophomore year when “Pistol Pete” Maravich, who went on to be a professional basketball player, joined the team in Baker’s sophomore year. Baker continued to support the team throughout the years and found a new passion for sports medicine.

He received both his undergraduate and medical degrees from Louisiana State University. He then joined the U.S. Army and completed his orthopedic residency at Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco and Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children in St. Louis.

Baker also did a sports medicine fellowship under Dr. Jack Hughston in Columbus in 1979. He retired from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1982 and joined The Hughston Clinic in 1982 where he remained on staff until his retirement.

He also served as president of The Hughston Clinic from 1994 to 2000. In addition, he spent time as chair of the Board of Directors of The Hughston Foundation and as program director of the Hughston Sports Medicine Fellowship.

Baker was an orthopedics professor at Tulane University School of Medicine and at the Medical College of Georgia. He was also active in national and international professional societies including the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Shoulder and Elbow Society, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, American Orthopaedic Association, International Society of Arthroscopy, Knee Surgery and Orthopaedic Sports Medicine, and Arthroscopy Association of North America.

He served as president of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, Southern Orthopaedic Association, Georgia Orthopaedic Society, and Georgia Shoulder and Elbow Society. He was inducted into the Halls of Fame of both the Chattahoochee Valley Sports and the American Orthopaedic Society of Sports Medicine.

In 2010, he received the George D. Rovere Award from the American Orthopaedic Society of Sports Medicine for his significant contributions to sports medicine education. He was also honored with the award Mr. Sports Medicine presented annually by the society to a person who has made significant contribution to sports medicine.

The National Athletic Trainers Association also awarded him with the President’s Challenge Award. And the Southern Orthopaedic Association with the Distinguished Southern Orthopaedist Award.

His obituary says, “In short, he was the recipient of nearly every prestigious award given by the professional associations and societies to which he belonged. When jokingly asked if receiving all these lifetime achievement awards meant he was ‘all washed up’, he replied, ‘Better to be all washed up with awards than all washed up with no awards.’”

A big proponent of education and research in the field, Baker contributed to many medical textbooks and scientific articles. He also served on the editorial board of several medical journals.

His support of athletes never wavered. He was team physician for several local and regional athletic teams, including the University of Alabama and Columbus State University, where he was inducted into their Sports Hall of Fame.

Baker was also known for his largesse. He funded scholarships for students in nursing and athletic training and was instrumental in bringing MercyMed to Columbus, providing indigent healthcare to his community. He is also a past-president of the Board of Trustees of Columbus State University and a board member of The Bo Bartlett Center.

Champ was also a beloved husband and father who always dedicated time to his family. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Sue Anne; son, Champ Bakker, III M.D. (wife Dr. Karin Baker); and daughters Kate Aghevli (husband Kavek) and Sarah Andrus (husband Brent) as well as his grandchildren, sister and brother and nieces and nephews.

“Champ Baker was a caring physician and a great surgeon, an honorable community volunteer and servant, and one of the most unique human beings you could hope to have as a friend or colleague,” his obituary says.


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