Physician Spotlight: Dr. Andrew Gregory
Dr. Andrew Gregory has the look of a volleyball player. It just so happens he knows a little bit about the sport since he grew up playing volleyball and is also an official team physician for the U.S. Volleyball Association, home of the U.S. Olympic Volleyball Teams. When he is not traveling with the men's team to Asia and Europe, this pediatric sports medicine specialist splits his time between the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital and the Sports Medicine Center of the Department of Orthopaedics at Vanderbilt.
Growing up in Huntsville, Ala., Gregory planned on going to college to become a chemist like his father and enrolled in Indiana University. Gregory's plan changed after working two summers in NASA labs at home in Huntsville. "I knew I didn't want to be in a lab all day, and that I was interested in sports and working with kids," recalled Gregory. At the end of his junior year, Gregory realized he wanted to go to medical school, but had taken no biology classes. He took the MCAT as a junior, and four biology classes later, he enrolled at the University of Alabama School of Medicine.
As luck would have it, during his residency in pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Alabama, the sports medicine facility was located inside the children's hospital. As a pediatrics resident and having a life-long love of athletics, Gregory was able to cover high school sports in the Birmingham area and realized then what his specialty would be. "Being a team physician on-site was a natural fit, because I enjoyed sports and I enjoyed interacting with athletes." Gregory then finished a fellowship in primary care sports medicine at the American Sports Medicine Institute.
Besides his full-time practice as a pediatric sports medicine specialist, Gregory has been the assistant professor of orthopedics and pediatrics at Vanderbilt, as well as a team physician at Vanderbilt and Belmont Universities since 2001. "When I began practicing, there were less than 100 pediatric sports medicine specialists," explained Gregory, "and with as many kids doing as many sports as they do, it is a great niche to be in."
Having initially been trained in pediatrics and then armed with the knowledge of sports medicine, Gregory was able to do what he loved. "There is no concern greater to Andrew than the health of his patients," said Mike Meyer, ATC (certified athletic trainer), of the Vanderbilt's men's basketball program. "Andrew is there to address any health need the team might have, and no one has his same responsiveness," praised Meyer. Emily Preston, a sports medicine physical therapist with Vanderbilt, agreed completely with Meyer's assessment. "All the student-athletes comment on Dr. Gregory's bedside manner and how much time he takes with each of them." According to Preston, the players know Gregory for his accessibility.
Dr. Gregory Mencio, Vanderbilt's director of pediatric orthopedics, wishes he could have Dr. Gregory in his department more of the time. "Andrew has a great personality for working in pediatrics. He understands a broad spectrum of injuries, whether from a playground accident, a Little League field or elite team sports," explained Mencio. Gregory spends 90 percent of his days with young people under the age of 18 and 10 percent with adult patients. "My goal for every patient is the same – to keep them active and get them back to doing what they enjoy. If a patient loves to garden and her shoulder hurts, I want to correct that," said Gregory.
Gregory played sand volleyball growing up in Huntsville and then on the men's team at Indiana University traveling throughout the Big 10 Conference. "When I first got involved with USA Volleyball, the governing body of all professional volleyball, they didn't have designated team doctors like most professional sports' teams. In Japan, volleyball players are akin to rock stars." Gregory was at the world finals in Japan last year, and hopes to be in China with the men's Olympic team in 2008.
"Andrew genuinely knows sports medicine in a way that only someone who is both a doctor and a player could. He intrinsically knows how to interact with the athletes," noted Aaron Brock, MS, ATC, PES (Performance Enhancement Specialist), of the USA Men's Volleyball National Team.
Through his affiliation with St. George's Episcopal Church, Gregory has been on three mission trips to Honduras, a South Dakota Indian reservation, and Haiti over the last nine years. "When you travel to Haiti, you remember why you do what you do. It's all about getting help to the people that need your care the most. The basic things in life that we take for granted, they simply do not have." Gregory firmly believes participating in a mission trip should be required training for all medical students. "I intentionally carve out a time to go on a mission trip every three years or so; it's practical medicine at its raw core."
Seven year old Taegan Strain of Franklin, Kentucky was first diagnosed with leukemia four years ago. During chemotherapy, she broke her leg on five different occasions and became a patient of Gregory's. "Taegan would scream and cry especially with male doctors. Dr. Gregory would tell her she could sit in my lap with her hands over her eyes so he couldn't see her," said Taegan's mother Tammy. "What he did that no other doctor before had done was little by little win Taegan's trust on her timetable; he didn't force the relationship, but let her come out of her shell on her own time," recalled Tammy. Even though Taegan is in remission and no longer a patient of Gregory's, "Taegan must see Dr. Gregory whenever we are in town," insists Tammy. A significant research interest of Gregory's is in gaining new insights into treating multiple fractures in kids.
Gregory has been married to his wife, Lori, for nine years and they have an 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Frances, who attends Oak Hill School. Gregory coaches her soccer team and is active with the youth group and basketball team at St. George's Episcopal Church. "I really enjoy working with young people and I get to do that both in and outside of my work."