By Emily Williams
Fall is a busy time of year for a physician at Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, and Dr. Jeff Dugas’ schedule is written proof.
On any given day, Dugas could meet 25 new faces before 3 p.m., which is one of the reasons he was drawn to a career in sports medicine.
“In orthopaedic sports medicine, especially, you are fixing things,” Dugas said. “There is that immediate gratification when you fix a problem and the patient can, more or less, return to their normal routine free of that previous pain.”
It’s one of the few areas of surgical medicine that Dugas said has a finish line for treatment within close range, which means quicker patient turnover.
“I realized early on that my personality wasn’t best suited to that long-term patient care, and thank God there are people who enjoy that,” he said.
During the month of October, Dugas is hoping to capitalize on that social side of his career to support breast cancer research by taking part in the American Cancer Society’s second annual Real Men Wear Pink campaign.
“If I can use whatever impact I have on the community to support a cause that helps others, then I’m ready to sign on,” Dugas said.
Dugas is one of two dozen men in the Birmingham area participating in this year’s campaign. Participants wear something pink throughout October and commit to raising at least $2,500. At the conclusion of the campaign, the top fundraiser will be recognized and named Pink Man of the Year.
Though breast cancer doesn’t play a major part in his career, Dugas’ personal life has been touched by the disease. In 2003, Dugas lost his maternal grandmother to breast cancer.
“I come from a traditional Italian family. If you know anything about Italian families, it’s that the matriarch is the head of the family. The men might think they (are), but it’s the matriarch. It’s a sacred position,” Dugas said.
At the time of her battle, Dugas’ 84-year-old grandmother held that position, and he had a special relationship with her, being the oldest grandchild of her oldest child.
Dugas decided to take advantage of geography and visit his family after a trip to Cooperstown, New York.
“I remember my mom and aunt’s warning me how sick she was and that she wouldn’t be the same,” he said. “When I got there she came out and cooked, cleaned, played the piano, danced and hung out with me. It was as if she wasn’t sick at all. She passed away about 60-90 days later, and it shows just how strong she was.”
Dugas said he believes that a time lies in the not-so-distant future when breast cancer will be as treatable as a stress fracture.
“We are better at treating it now than we were 15 years ago and it will only get better as the medical world and science world progress,” he said.
The Real Men Wear Pink campaign isn’t Dugas’ first foray into volunteering. He volunteers as team physician for Troy University and medical director for USA Cheer, provides sports medicine assistance to the Birmingham Barons and the Alabama Ballet, and works with World Wrestling Entertainment. The Vestavia Hills resident also donates his time as team physician for Vestavia Hills High School, which he said is easy because of the high school’s two athletic trainers on staff.
“Any success that I have is only possible because of the people who support me and I stand on a lot of wonderful people’s shoulders,” he said.
When it comes time to don pink, Dugas isn’t too worried about his days out of the operating room, especially now that he is the proud owner of a pink Troy University polo for game days.
At work, the selection of pink scrubs created a fashion statement reminiscent of Miss Piggy, Dugas said. Luckily, a member of the surgical support staff makes scrub caps and made a selection for Dugas using breast cancer-themed fabric.
In addition to Dugas, other members of the community who will be thinking pink this month are Bob Baker, Ryan Brown, Michael Choy, Andrew Collins, Richard Danner, Bezshan Dolatabadi, Jim Dunaway, Lee Edwards, Art Franklin, Bernard Frei, Courtney French, Daryl Grant, Will Haver, Thomas Hoffman, Jason Jack, David Jackson, Chris Lane, Brent McCullogh, Evan Ray, AC Roper, Brad Spencer, Lance Taylor and Wayne Trucks.
This year’s group of men will be recognized at a kickoff party at Carrigan’s Public House Sept. 22 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. For more information about Real Men Wear Pink, visit makingstrides.acsevents.org.