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He wouldn’t want this to confuse you, but the new orthopedic surgeon who just dusted off his shingle in Shelby County actually got his start in Simpsonville – at the FB Purnell Sausage Company.
The way Andrew Duffee tells the story, he was a medical student in Louisville and needed some ligaments to use to practice surgical procedures.
“When I was writing my personal statement for orthopedics, I told them I started in a slaughterhouse,” he said. “I came out to Al Purnell’s and got my start.”
Before you think Duffee was sharpening his deftness with the scalpel on the sausage line, let’s keep the story simple: He was studying the vital anterior cruciate ligament surgery that is the staple of repairing bad knees, and he needed porcine ligaments and tendons on which to practice.
“I came out to Purnell’s, and that was an eye-opening experience,” he said. “I guess you could say I’ve come full circle.”
The circle was closed for Duffee in Shelby County this week, when he began work at a new office in Stonecrest, becoming one of first bricks-and-mortar orthopedic specialists in the county in quite some time.
So new is Duffee that on Wednesday administrators at Jewish Hospital Shelbyville were checking him for a tuberculosis, trying to find him an ID badge and cutting him a key to the physician’s lounge in the basement of the hospital.
Duffee finished a fellowship at Ohio State on July 31, and just this week he paused amid all that orientation and talking about his new practice to hug an old classmate from the University of Louisville School of Medicine (Class of 2006) and try to figure out how to get one of his daughter’s furniture delivered to his family’s home in the Locust Creek development just across the Jefferson County line.
He and his wife, Stephanie, and their two daughters, ages 4 and 1, have settled there to be near their families in Jefferson County and have easy access to Shelby, where he said he plans to bore himself into the firmament of the sports community and build a full-service orthopedic practice. “It’s ten minutes from family and ten minutes from the hospital,” he said. “That’s a good balance.”
You don’t have to spend much time with Duffee, 35, to realize that his heart and soul are in Kentucky. His medical training led him to a residency at the University of South Carolina Medical Center in Columbia for five years and then to Columbus for a year at OSU, but otherwise, his life has been connected by the steady, concrete thread that is Interstate 64.
Born and raised in Louisville, Duffee moved with his family to Richmond because of his father’s job with CSX Railroad. They stayed there through his high school years – even though his father had been transferred back to Louisville and commuted for a while so Duffee’s senior year could be finished – and he returned to his home turf after earning a president’s scholarship to UofL.
During a brief interlude between his undergraduate and medical school, Duffee first connected with Shelby County and the allure of small-town hospitals – if not quite yet with hanging around joints for a living.
“I was working for a cardiologist doing tech work, and Dale Senior was one of the doctors,” he said. “I came out to Shelbyville a few times and did tech work for them. That was my first exposure to smaller towns. We went to Carrollton and Shelbyville, and I liked the connection to the community. Most of the time I was downtown at Jewish. This was different.”
After playing around with the leftovers from Purnell’s pigs, Duffee said he didn’t get into orthopedics because he was an athlete – although he played soccer and basketball at Madison Central High School and still is “trying to play golf” – but because he liked the challenge of the specialty and being able “to help improve people’s quality of life.”
“I thought about cardiology,” he said. “They say after you take gross anatomy you will know if you want to do surgical or medical. I had to choose between the body cavity and the muscular and skeletal.
“In orthopedics you get to help people get back to what they love and can’t do because of injuries. You get the athlete back on the field or you help grandma be able to reach up and do her own hair.”
At South Carolina, Duffee worked with a lot of high school and college athletes and spent time meeting and observing the famed Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, the man made famous for transplanting ligaments into the elbows of major-league pitchers and repairing the knees of NFL running backs.
But it was at OSU – a fellowship that he weighed against one from the University of Kentucky – that Duffee said he had “an amazing year,” not only sharpening his skills but also conducting research into injuries and repairing them that he believes could have some long-lasting impact in sports medicine.
He worked with all the Buckeyes’ sports teams and performed surgeries on shoulders, knees and lots of rotator cuff injuries, which tend to hamper pitchers, too. “We did some newer surgeries,” he said. “I got to do some cartilage restoration.”
He studied innovative new procedures to repair the ACL – “tunneling” into the knee in alternative routes that improved flexibility – and he adapted the research about the wear-and-tear on the arms of little league pitchers, which led the limits on pitches and innings that currently are in place, into a study on the throwing of fast-pitch softball pitchers, many of whom pitch hundreds of innings in a single spring.
“We sent them the same survey that they had the baseball pitchers,” he said. “And we found that softball pitchers were far more likely to have shoulder pain and that overuse of them could cause pain and injury.”
Duffee said he plans to apply all of that training and experience in his practice in Shelby County. “I think I want to do all this stuff that’s new,” he said. “I want to do cartilage reconstruction – only one other person does that – Dr. [Christian] Lattermann at UK does some of that. It’s something unique that I was trained to do.”
He said he wants to work with sports teams at the high schools – he has met with Collins team physicians Paul Goodlett and Ron Creque Jr. – and plans to forge a relationship with the coaches. He said Magistrate Hubie Pollett has promised to show him around and introduce him to everyone, to get him acquainted with the participants in the various sports leagues.
“I want to do it all and to do it here in this community,” he said. “I want to grow a practice, to work with [orthopedic surgeon] Dr. [Raymond] Shea and then perhaps in the future add a physician. We want to reach out and serve Henry and Spencer counties, too. I hope with the merger [with Jewish’s being part of KentuckyOne Health] the hospital can recruit more physicians.”
Duffee’s first days – despite the keys and the tests and the hugs – was about meeting other medical practitioners, but on Tuesday he had his full group of patients at his office.
“We saw fourteen the first day just based on sending out some postcards,” he said. “That was a good start.”
And a much different one from his first time around back at Purnell’s.