Dr. Otis Drew’s path to becoming an orthopaedic surgeon started on the football field.
A middle linebacker, Drew earned a scholarship to play for then-Northeast Louisiana University (now the University of Louisiana at Monroe.) But an injury his freshman year put him on the sideline and caused him to redshirt. As he saw his doctor work, he realized he had an interest in a medical career.
“He was an awesome guy, and he let me work with him and see what he did,” Drew recalled. “My decision to go into medicine was based mainly on my experience with him.”
Drew went on to LSU Medical School in New Orleans and a residency at Tulane University Health Sciences Center. Even as he developed confidence in his skills, there were a few nerves when he began treating patients on his own.
“It’s a bit surreal,” Drew said with a laugh. “It’s even more surreal when you do your first surgery on your own. It’s kind of a milestone, and also somewhat of an anxious experience. But overall, it feels good. You trust yourself and you trust your training.”
Over the years, Drew has worked on some memorable cases. One that stands out is when a young man was struck by a car while changing a flat tire along the interstate. The man’s legs were badly injured, and Drew ended up having to amputate one of them.
“A year later, he got a prosthesis and now he’s very active again. He was able to have a good quality of life,” Drew said. “I saw him through a lot of lows, but it was an awesome feeling to see him walking into the office a year later with a smile on his face.”
Although he works with patients from all walks of life, Drew has a particular soft spot for helping athletes. In addition to his practice, Drew is a team physician for the UL Ragin’ Cajuns basketball teams and works closely with high school athletes from across Acadiana.
“You see a kid with an ACL injury, and they come in distraught because they think their career is over and their life is over,” Drew said. “To be able to fix them and rehab them and see them get back on the field is wonderful. You know you are really making a difference.”
Drew said one trend he’s noticed and continues to study is overuse injuries among younger athletes, especially those in high school. In the past, many kids focused on only one sport, but now, most participate in multiple sports year-round.
“A lot of these injuries do come because of a lack of time to recover,” Drew said. “I don’t see that changing much, so now we are focusing more on prevention ahead of time. I see it with my own son, because he is full go when it comes to sports pretty much year-round. I can definitely relate to that situation.”
When he isn’t working, Drew and his wife Kim, a Lafayette dermatologist, love traveling and spending time with their three children. They can often be seen at New Orleans Saints games and other sporting events as well.
“Family is huge for me,” Drew said. “I’m originally from Oakdale, Louisiana and then I moved to Baker in the eighth grade, so I kind of claim both places. My wife is from Franklin. We knew we wanted to be in Louisiana, and Lafayette is ideal for us. Both of our parents are about 45 minutes away, so we’re always getting to do things with our families, which means so much to all of us.”