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Alumni Interview

Stan James, M.D.

Stan James, M.D.

He puts the swoosh in Nike shoes

62MD, 67R - Orthopaedic Surgery
Orthopaedic Surgeon
Eugene, Oregon

" My education at the University of Iowa, both in undergraduate school as well as medical school and residency, provided me a very sound foundation on which to build a professional career in orthopaedics. The UI medical school is certainly a well-recognized institution and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery is known throughout the world as one of the top-quality orthopaedic training programs."

By Jessie Rolph, Health Science Relations

Working closely with Michael Jordan, helping Nike design shoes, traveling internationally -- it may sound like the life of a professional athlete, but it's only a small piece of career history for Stan James, M.D., a UI Carver College of Medicine alumnus.

James, an orthopaedic surgeon in Eugene, Oregon, has become one of the leaders in the field of sports medicine. He has authored or co-authored more than 50 publications, spoken in Canada, Mexico, Korea, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, and Italy, and he has worked with some of the world's elite athletes.

He's been profiled by numerous magazines, like Runner's World, and been referenced in Sports Illustrated, Time and Esquire. He helped Nike design better running shoes and helped to change standard medical procedure for ligament healing.

Entering the field of sports medicine in its early beginnings, James has made a large impact on the field. An Iowa City native, he graduated with a degree in physical education from the UI in 1953, then spent four years as an Army aviator before returning to medical school at the UI. He graduated from medical school in 1962, spent a year in an Oregon internship and completed his residency in orthopaedic surgery at the UI in 1967.

"My education at the University of Iowa, both in undergraduate school as well as medical school and residency, provided me a very sound foundation on which to build a professional career in orthopaedics," he said. "The UI medical school is certainly a well-recognized institution and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery is known throughout the world as one of the top-quality orthopaedic training programs."

James' interest in sports medicine began during his residency, where he worked with team physician "Shorty" Paul, M.D., to care for Hawkeye athletes' orthopaedic problems. During this time, James also worked as part of a research team studying ligament healing at the UI Exercise Physiology Laboratory. Ligament injuries at that time were treated by long periods of immobilization, but James' research showed that early motion could help heal ligaments faster. While the concept was not widely accepted for another 15 years, it has become standard procedure today.

That work brought him to orthopaedic Healthcare Northwest in Eugene, where he's served as a surgeon since 1967. While he started as a hand surgeon, he began to treat University of Oregon and Oregon State University athletes and started to study knee surgery and runners' injuries.

James has seen the field of sports medicine grow dramatically since 1967, both in its techniques and perceptions.

"In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, sports medicine physicians were generally referred to as ‘jock docs,' and not in the most complimentary fashion," James said. "With the advent of the fitness boom in the 1970s, that attitude changed dramatically. It has been very exciting and interesting to watch the growth of sports medicine, which at this point in time is a major part of orthopaedic practice."

As part of his practice, James has treated elite athletes like Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler (basketball), Carl Lewis, Mary Slaney and Willie Davenport (track), Pete Sampras (tennis) and Dan Fouts (football), among others.

In 1984, James treated the then-women's world record holder in the marathon, Joan Benoit Samuelson, who developed a knee problem three weeks before the Olympic team trials. James performed knee surgery, not expecting Samuelson to recover in time. She went on to win the trials two-and-a-half weeks later and won the first women's Olympic marathon event in Los Angeles later that year.

"Although the elite athletes have made up a very small portion of my practice, they certainly have added an extremely interesting facet to my practice through the years," James said. "I have found all of them to be very friendly individuals and very easy to work with. Many of them were concerned that their career was on the line, but they were ideally motivated patients to work with. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to have been able to assist them."

James has also been able to assist a larger number of athletes across the country with his work on designing better running shoes for Nike.

When the company was just beginning in the 1970s, Nike co-founders Phil Knight and Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman called on James to be a consultant. James analyzed film of Oregon track athletes to study running gait and was part of a small research group that sent prototype shoe designs to Nike. Many of the ideas and designs were incorporated into Nike's shoes, James said.

Today, James continues his practice at orthopaedic Healthcare Northwest, where much of his attention is still focused on sports medicine. And when he's not in the office, you can probably find him out on the trails.

An accomplished cross-country skier, James holds two National Masters Championships in the 20K Classic and 10K Freestyle events. He also continues to run.

"I have been involved in personal fitness my entire life, even back in the days when people looked askance at individuals who were running," he said. "I began running before the running boom, and I used to run at night so that people would not see me and think I was crazy."

Contact

Medicine Alumni Society
medicine-alumni@uiowa.edu
Phone: 319-335-8886
Toll Free: 877-MEDIOWA
Fax: 319-384-1746