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February 25, 2002

Huey's rule

By Eric Rangus


When Michael Huey accepted the job of executive director of the Emory University Health Service—the student health service—it represented a return to familiar ground.

For five years, from 1994–99, Huey was director of the University of Florida Student Health Care Center. For three years before that, he was director of the student health center at California State University-Bakersfield. It was a career he enjoyed, one in which he felt comfortable.

With that comfort, however, came a little restlessness. Huey had been away from regular family practice for 10 years, and a large part of him yearned to return to it.

So, that’s what he did.

Huey resigned as UF’s director of student health (but kept his associate professorship), and he entered a UF faculty family practice in Gainesville.

“I’m in my late 40s now, and I was thinking, ‘Will I ever be able to go back to being a family physician?’” Huey said. “I was able to do it. I was current enough in my knowledge and had enough energy. I am a much better doctor now than I was three years ago.”

Huey was happy with is return to family practice. It not only made him a better doctor, but it also taught him an extremely important lesson. He learned that his place was elsewhere.

“I really missed student health,” Huey said. “That was the best fit for me, and sometimes you have to go away from something to really appreciate it.”

Huey began looking for student-health positions and found Emory. He was hired late last year and began his new position on Jan. 7.

“When you take a new job, there are always things that you gain and things that you lose,” Huey said. “I think that if you don’t feel significant regrets when you leave a job to go onto a new opportunity, then you should’ve left a long time ago. So I have significant regrets about leaving Florida and will greatly miss that part of my life.”

Huey’s ties to Gainesville run a little deeper than average. For seven years, Huey was a team physician for Florida athletics, the last three for the football and men’s basketball programs. Atop a shelf in his office sits an autographed game helmet the football team gave him when he moved to Emory.

“One of the things that’s been really wonderful about doing sports medicine is that I like sports, so I had the best seat in the house for some really spectacular games over the years,” Huey said. He got to attend the Final Four with the basketball team and several bowl games with the football team.

Huey said he already has begun working with Emory athletics as a team physician.

He does have several concrete ideas about where to take student health at Emory. Foremost in Huey’s mind is his office’s name.

“It’s a relic of the time when faculty, staff and students all came to the same place,” Huey said of the somewhat generic “University Health Service” name. “That’s not who we are, and that’s not who I want us to be. I want this organization to be about student care.

I want the students to perceive this as their health service. I want them to understand that this health service is designed to meet their needs and that it’s responsive to them when their needs change.”

What Huey has in mind is to rechristen his office the “Emory University Student Health Service.” The leaders of the Division of Campus Life, which the health service falls under, as well as the University in general, agree with Huey, and the name change, while not yet official, currently is moving through channels.

The name change is one of three short-term goals, Huey stated. The others are to encourage more student involvement in planning and programming at the health service and to work with the physicians and administrators in the Emory Clinic to improve the referral system for students to Emory specialists.

Huey began his medical career as a self-described “country doctor” in Fall River Mills, Calif., a town of 600 people near Mount Shasta in north central California. He stayed there for four years while he paid off his National Health Service scholarship.

Huey’s years in Fall River Mills not only kick-started his medical career, but they also rekindled the fires of his outside-of-work passion: theater.

As a youngster and all the way through high school, Huey acted constantly in this play or that. When he got to college, though, he didn’t have the time for it, so Huey gave it up. The way he found it again was quite convenient.

A medical school buddy of Huey’s had grown up in Fall River Mills and had returned to town with Huey to practice. His mother, a local teacher, owned a playhouse and presented 3–4 shows a year. She asked Huey if he wanted to participate.

He couldn’t agree fast enough.

When Huey got to Bakersfield, he continued to act—this time on a slightly different scale. The first role he won was that of Juan Perón in Evita. Instead of performing in front of 20 people seated in folding chairs in a church auditorium, Huey graduated to a 1,200-seat theater with a balcony, a 30-piece orchestra, body mikes, professional makeup artists, the full deal.

“It was such a colossal rush from what I had been doing,” he said. Perón remains Huey’s favorite role to this day—and he’s had some sweet ones. Like Baron von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, Daddy Warbucks in Annie and Col. Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men, to name just a few. Huey said he’s done about 30 shows over the last 15 years.

Huey’s most recent performance was also one of his most unique. He and his wife Fontaine were King William and Queen Caroline, rulers of the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, earlier this month in Alachua County, Fla., their former home.

They’ve done it for the last five years. The Hueys spent the six-day fair in royal regalia, leading a procession to a jousting match, knighting children and basically acting monarchical.

“It’s great fun, and they pay us, which is unusual,” Huey laughed. “It’s all improv. You’re the king and you play the role. And let’s face it—it’s good to be the king.”