In Conversation: Dr. Jeff Guy

Since 2001, Harvard-trained Dr. Jeffrey Guy has been pioneering what it means to have a major university's medical school combine with its athletics department not just to provide care for its athletes but serve as a beacon for care in the region, delivering sports medicine care to six area colleges and universities, more than 20 high schools, 10 middle schools and two professional dance companies.
South Carolina fans, of course, know Guy as the man responsible for keeping athletes healthy and engaged in competition, an area the athletic program overall has grown significantly more successful in during the past 13 years Guy has been in Columbia. When everyone is healthy, Guy's life is simple. When they're not, he's there even in the toughest of moments, such as Marcus Lattimore's two major knee surgeries and subsequent rehabs. Lattimore, in fact, credits Guy's skill and optimism as major reasons he's where he is today as do many former athletes, even those in the NFL, who return to Columbia to seek his advice and medical expertise.
Guy serves as the director of the USC Sports Medicine Center and is an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. He's the medical director of the College of Education's Athletic Training Education Program and an adjunct professor in the Arnold School of Public Health's Department of Exercise Science. As the athletic department's medical director and team physician, he oversees the health and care of all Gamecock teams. He sits on many professional boards and associations, in 2008 was the team surgeon for the United States Olympic Team in Beijing, China, and in 2011 was named the South Carolina Medical Association's Physician of the Year.
Last week, Guy sat down with Gamecock Central to talk about how he came to Columbia starting out college as a baseball player at San Diego State and how the overall sports medicine program at USC has become as good as anyone's anywhere.
Editor's note: Part one of a two-part interview.
Gamecock Central: Before getting into medicine, you went to college at San Diego State with hopes of playing Major League Baseball.
Dr. Jeffrey Guy: Yeah, I grew up in Pasadena, a total California kid playing baseball. I played baseball in high school a lot before going to college for it from 1981 to 1984.
GC: You would have been there then at SDSU in the early '80s at the same time as Tony and Chris Gwynn and Mark Grace?
Guy: Tony Gwynn took me on my recruiting trip. I played with Chris. I have a team picture in my office with us on the same team. And Mark was there playing first base.
GC: I took the liberty of looking up your stats through SDSU's baseball office. As a freshman pitcher on the JV team you were 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in 12 appearances.
Guy: Wow, I didn't know that! I was a right-handed reliever, a sidearm guy, and bounced back and forth between varsity and junior varsity before I hurt my elbow. The really funny thing is I hurt my elbow my sophomore year and I actually went to Dr. Frank Jobe who did the original Tommy John surgery, but hadn't done it yet when I saw him. I think he operated on Tommy John a few years after that.
GC: So you could have benefited from the surgery had he only done it sooner?
Guy: Maybe. MRIs didn't exist. Nobody ordered MRIs. Oh well. That was pretty much it for my career. What's interesting is that after my sophomore year I sat down with my coach (Jim Dietz) and I was doing really well in school, which was a new thing for me.
I kind of discovered school. When I first got to college, coach Dietz said there are three things in college - your athletics, your academics and your social life - and you can only do two of the three well. If you try to do all three you're going to fail. The funny thing is when I got accepted to medical school, to Harvard, I sent him a letter and put in there that I remembered his words and how important academics was and how I learned to be a student there.
I haven't been back there in three or four years, but the last time I was back there to visit Tony (Gwynn) and say hi, he took me down to their Hall of Fame area and they have my picture and my letter framed there. It was pretty neat.
GC: So after college you were accepted to Harvard then trained as an Orthopedic Surgeon in Boston, including a pediatric sports medicine fellowship at Boston Children's Hospital. You then went on to work under Dr. James Andrews at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala., which is where you came to the attention of former USC athletics director Mike McGee, correct?
Guy: It was in 2001. Dr. McGee and Larry Faulkner, the dean of the medical school at the time, had a few conversations at the time about the fact that we had an Orthopedic department at the medical school that was not involved in the care of our Division I athletes at the university. You'd like to think a university would take care of itself. However, at the time there was a limited sports medicine presence in the department.
GC: What was the model for care before?
Guy: They'd use a private practice in town. Which was fine, but you'd like to take care of your own teams. So they'd hired Dr. Angus McBryde, who had just come back to USC, actually, to basically develop a sports program.
Dr. McBryde called Dr. Andrews, and I was with Dr. Andrews finishing up. I was planning on staying there for a little bit, but as Dr. McBryde puts it. they wanted a "young upstart", a young guy, to help start the new sports program here and Dr. Andrews thought it would be a great opportunity for me. When I came here, it was exactly what I was looking for. It was an academic program and a sports medicine department that was in early development. They wanted to build something, which was what I wanted to do. We really started from scratch. We opened a new sports medicine division that had no involvement in community outreach. We weren't responsible for any teams. Zero.
We basically started in 2001, and actually South Carolina State became our first school. The team doctor down there was retiring, and we took care of them, as well as five of Richland School District 1's high schools. In 2002, we took over the care of Benedict College, and we started the S.M.A.R.T. program (Sports Medicine for Athletes and Recreational Teams) that provides free physicals to participating area high schools and middle schools that we've been doing ever since.
GC: It's interesting that you worked on other schools' athletes before you worked on USC's athletes. Why was that?
Guy: So for the first year or so, USC Sports Medicine was an alternative resource for our Division I athletes. As part of our new program, we continued to provide care to local colleges and high schools in order to provide similar access to care that the University athletes received. Dr. McGee was very supportive of the idea. He continued to support the new program until it was ready to play a larger role in the care of our athletes.
What I told Dr. McGee was our vision was to develop a program similar to how Dr. Andrews runs his program in Alabama. We try and utilize and partner with all the components of health care here at the university and try to provide a coordinated access to young athletes and programs who may normally not have such access. The Medical School, Athletic Training, Exercise Science and Physical Therapy departments all provide critical components to our system. We also have a large network of consultants, including Dr. Andrews who has a clinical appointment to our Department of Orthopedic surgery.
GC: Because you can't be experts in everything.
Guy: Right. We do that for two reasons. We try and provide the best care for our athletes, whether they are one of our Gamecock athletes or someone from one of our local schools. Number one, if we have something that needs a specialist, say, a sports hernia, we have a specialist for sports hernias up in Philadelphia. If someone has a complicated hip problem that's not getting better, we have a hip specialist in Tennessee. We have contacts throughout the Southeast that if we have someone who is not getting better we can send them to.
Dr. Andrews remains as our ultimate consultant, which is why he has a clinical appointment to the department. Interestingly enough, I believe we are the largest Andrews disciple-related sports medicine place in the country. We have three orthopedic surgeons (Guy, Christopher Mazoue and Ryan Hess) and two primary care sports doctors (Matthew Pollack and Andy McGown), so there's five of us here. I don't think there's anywhere else in the country that has five of his trainees.
Coming tomorrow...Guy talks about the injury that shook Gamecock Nation (Marcus Lattimore), his thoughts on another Gamecock who seemed to never want to come out for an injury (Connor Shaw) and working with Steve Spurrier. Additionally, we'll have an exclusive interview with Latttimore himself! Stay tuned!