From reading medical charts to covering games, Executive Director of Emory University Student Health Services Michael Huey has served Emory Sports Medicine as an honorary sideline Eagle for the past 16 years — and all just for a Diet Coke.
Huey’s duties as head team physician aren’t part of his job description, according to Head Athletics Trainer John Dunham, who explained that Huey volunteers in the position.
“[Huey] does it for a Diet Coke,” Dunham said. “He comes and he sees six or seven student athletes in an afternoon, and we give him a Diet Coke. Or he comes and watches a game, we give him a Diet Coke.”
Huey concurred and countered with a brief lecture for his patients.
“[Emory Athletics wants] to make sure that I’m well-hydrated,” Huey quipped. “We do, however, not recommend that our athletes drink Diet Coke because of the caffeine, which isn’t in their best interest as athletes.”
Now, it’s time for Huey to rest his wings. He announced his retirement as Head Team Physician and Medical Director of Emory Athletics July 31, 2017, and will officially relinquish his position July 21, 2018.
At Emory, Huey performs sideline medical coverage for varsity athletic events, oversees the care provided by athletic trainers and verifies that policies and procedures meet NCAA requirements. He also currently serves as a member of the American College of Sports Medicine, American College Health Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
As Executive Director of Emory Student Health Services, Huey has been an integral figure in major events such as a tuberculosis appearance in 2017, the 2014 norovirus outbreak and the institution of Emory’s immunization requirement in 2002.
Before Huey came to Emory in 2002, he worked at the University of Florida, where he served as Director of the Student Health Care Center and Associate Clinical Professor of Community Health and Family Practice. He also served as a team physician for the university’s athletics program.
Emory student athletes and patients of Huey remember the times he restored their health. Senior basketball guard Whit Rapp first met Huey in the middle of a game, after a busted-open head warranted stitches in the upstairs training room. Even going so far as to call Huey a “stand-up guy,” Rapp recognized Huey’s approachability and his ability to form strong connections with his patients.
Rapp described how he felt that Huey prioritized him as a patient, whereas he felt like “just another student in the crowd” at other Emory clinics.
“Dr. Huey was always just very warm, receptive,” Rapp said. “It’s the little things. Calling me by my first name, asking me questions that pertained to who I was. He just showed the ability to be more than just a doctor.”
In light of Huey’s contributions, Dunham noted that some colleges and universities lack the high quality physicians, resources, nutrition or counseling center that Emory has.
“[Some colleges and universities are] kind of left to fend for themselves,” Dunham said. “What [Huey has] been able to build has really set a standard. It’s going to be hard to fill moving forward, [but] we’re at a point of no return.”
As Huey reflected on his time as director, he said he is proud of the development of his project, E-CARE, a comprehensive concussion program for students created in collaboration with Emory Athletics, Student Health Services, the Office of Health Promotion and Emory Healthcare. The program emphasizes the significance of obtaining medical treatment for concussions and provides pointers on identifying concussion symptoms and taking steps toward recovery.
“[Treating concussions are] certainly of paramount importance to Emory students who are very focused … on their academics … in terms of their careers,” Huey said. “We want to be sure that the quality of concussion care that they’re getting is state of the art.”
Huey will continue to be a part of Emory Sports Medicine — albeit in a less administrative role as a team physician. Emory School of Medicine Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics Courtney Gleason, who joined Emory Healthcare in Spring 2017, will assume Huey’s position as Director of Medical Services upon his retirement.
“I’m very much in favor of the moves that Emory’s going to make to both update, improve and really make our athletics and recreation facilities something that is on par with the outstanding academics and healthcare that’s provided at Emory,” Huey said.
For now, Huey said he plans to continue as a team physician for the next “several” years and support the Emory Eagles from the sidelines.
“Luckily, we’re going to be able to keep him for maybe two Diet Coke’s now,” Dunham said.