Champ L. Baker Jr. 1946-2022

Champ L. Baker, Jr., M.D., of Columbus, Georgia, passed away March 18, 2022 at the age of 75. Dr. Baker, an orthopedic surgeon, was renowned nationally and internationally for his expertise in sports medicine. A native of Louisiana, he was born on August 3, 1946, to the late Champ L. Baker, Sr. and Astrid Hiie Baker, a nurse and the inspiration for her son’s medical career.

Baker received his undergraduate and medical degrees from Louisiana State University. At 6’7”, Champ had always hoped to have a career in basketball and had, indeed, made the LSU basketball team his freshman year. During his sophomore year, however, he redirected his career plans when “Pistol Pete” Maravich joined the team and replaced him at center. He remained the consummate LSU fan, and ever the optimist, he supported them through good years and bad.

Baker completed his residency at Letterman Army Medical Center and Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children. After completing a sports medicine fellowship at The Hughston Clinic in Columbus, he joined and remained on the Hughston staff until his retirement. He served as president of The Hughston Clinic from 1994 until 2000 and was an orthopedics professor at Tulane University School of Medicine and at the Medical College of Georgia. He formerly served as Chair of the Board of Directors of The Hughston Foundation.

Nationally and internationally, Baker was active in many professional societies and served as an officer or committee member in the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; American Shoulder and Elbow Society; American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine; American Orthopaedic Association; International Society of Arthroscopy, Knee Surgery and Orthopaedic Sports Medicine; and Arthroscopy Association of North America. He served as president of the Southern Orthopaedic Association, Georgia Orthopaedic Society, Georgia Shoulder and Elbow Society, and American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. He was inducted into both the Chattahoochee Valley Sports and the American Orthopaedic Society of Sports Medicine Halls of Fame; from the latter, he was honored with the title of “Mr. Sports Medicine” in 2020 for his significant contributions to education. He was also a recipient of the Distinguished Southern Orthopaedist Award from the Southern Orthopaedic Association and the President’s Challenge Award from the National Athletic Trainers Association.

Whether it was adding to the existing body of orthopedic knowledge or describing a new surgical technique, Baker’s enthusiasm for a new research project was always apparent. To pass along knowledge gained from his many years of practice, he contributed his writings to numerous medical textbooks and scientific articles on sports medicine topics. As a supporter of medical research, he served on the editorial boards of several medical journals.

In his support of athletes, Baker served as team physician for numerous local and regional athletic teams, including the University of Alabama, and Columbus State University, and he was a volunteer physician for the U.S. Olympic Committee. He started and funded scholarships for students in nursing and athletic training careers.

On a personal and local level, his community service is legendary. He was instrumental in bringing MercyMed to Columbus to provide Indigent healthcare to his community’s citizens. He was a past-president of the Board of Trustees of Columbus State University and served on the boards of many local groups. His varied interests and talents led him to contribute his time as a board member of his church, St. Luke’s Methodist, the Columbus Botanical Society, and the Bo Bartlett Center.

Personally, Champ lived up to his name. After expressing a need for an update in his social life, a former LSU fraternity brother introduced Champ to Sue Anne Owens from Quincy, FL. After an initial promising start to their relationship, Champ made a misstep; he spent a date with Sue Anne reading the newspaper. Fortunately, he corrected that error and quickly asked her to marry him. Last August, they celebrated their 51st anniversary. Champ was a beloved husband and devoted father who made time to be with his three children. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Sue Anne; son, Champ (Lee) Baker, III M.D. (wife Dr. Karin Baker); and daughters Kate Aghevli (husband Kaveh) and Sarah Andruss (husband Brent). He was known as “Bud” to his beloved grandchildren Lee IV and Caroline Baker; Adeleh, Grady, and Kian Aghevli; and Hank, Sam, and Jack Andruss. He is also survived by his brother Rusty Baker and his sister Susie Nall, who was the arbitrator of sibling rivalry between the competitive brothers, his brother-in-law, Malcolm Nall, nephews Wade Hopkins and Craig Nall, and nieces Cassie Baker, Brandy Thorning, and Emily Chappell. His co-workers and staff, who he treated with total respect, will miss his humor and ongoing concern. He also leaves behind friends too numerous to count.
Champ Baker was a caring physician and a great surgeon, an honorable community volunteer and servant, and one of the most decent human beings you could hope to have as a friend or colleague.