By: Anna Gilstrap
Our Andrews Sports Medicine physicians appreciate the opportunities they have to get to know their patients on a personal level, so we’ve decided to help patients get to know their physicians as well.
In this edition of In Their Own Words, we spoke with Dr. Rachel Henderson about her experiences living and working in Birmingham, why working at Andrews Sports Medicine is her dream job and what she hopes her future at our practice has in store.
Dr. Rachel Henderson - Non-Surgical Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Physician
Growing up in Savannah, Georgia, Dr. Henderson was raised as a Georgia Bulldog fan. Her first ‘job’ in elementary school was chanting the ‘Goooo Dawgs! Sic’ em. Woof woof woof!’ cheer at kick-off during football games. She always loved sports and participated in multiple sports, but primarily gymnastics and cheerleading. Her father is a physician, which led to her early interest in science and medicine as a career.
Dr. Henderson earned dual undergraduate degrees in biology and anthropology from the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. She attended medical school at Tulane University in New Orleans.
Following medical school, Dr. Henderson completed an internship at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and then a residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She then completed a fellowship at the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) with Andrews Sports Medicine in Birmingham.
Dr. Henderson lives in Homewood with her husband, Spence, and their dog, Zoe, a rescue German Shepherd/Boxer mix. She enjoys hiking, cycling, swimming, Zumba and yoga. She recently completed her first sprint triathlon. She also enjoys live music, local restaurants and traveling.
Q & A: Dr. Rachel Henderson - In Her Own Words
Following your fellowship with ASMI, you joined the Andrews Sports Medicine family full-time in August 2018. How did you feel about going from a fellow to a full-time physician with the practice?
Dr. Henderson: I couldn’t have asked for a smoother transition from fellow to physician, due in part to my outstanding fellowship training. The Andrews fellowship is known as one of the more challenging programs, and I tried to see and do as much as possible. I also have a great support network for rare or difficult cases. Andrews Sports Medicine fosters a culture of life-long learning and excellence. Drawing from my years of training and mentors, I’ve enjoyed developing my own style of practice.
Your interest in both medicine and athletics started early on, but when did you know you wanted to combine the two and specialize in sports medicine and orthopaedics?
Dr. Henderson: I’ve always enjoyed being active and had a passion for movement as medicine. During an elective rotation in my intern year of residency in San Francisco, I worked with the team doctor for the San Francisco Ballet and he used musculoskeletal ultrasound for minimally-invasive procedures and injections for tendonitis. It was my first exposure to biologic treatments for orthopedic conditions, which aims to use the body’s own healing potential to boost recovery. I was intrigued and impressed by the positive outcomes that these patients reported and the ability of ultrasound to add precision to these treatments.
When I moved to Birmingham for residency at UAB, I spent a lot of time rotating at Andrews and covering football and basketball games and endurance events. I continued to study and published research in musculoskeletal ultrasound. My enthusiasm hasn’t faded. I still enjoy it every day and feel very lucky to have been able to join the team here.
You’ve said working as a physician at Andrews is your dream job. What do you love about working here?
Dr. Henderson: The people that I meet and work with are what makes my job the best, from patients and athletes to staff, trainers, coaches, and administrators. We are all working together to encourage opportunities for a more healthy, active lifestyle. I also love that each day is different. I have the privilege of treating people across a wide range of ages, conditions and goals, such as a person with knee arthritis struggling with daily activities, to a high school athlete with an ankle sprain trying to rehab in time to win a championship or obtain a college scholarship. It’s all about helping folks achieve ‘victory over injury’, our motto at Andrews.
Tell us about your experience over the past two years treating patients at the Birmingham, One Nineteen and Pelham locations.
Dr. Henderson: I mostly work at our satellite offices in Greystone and Pelham. Our patients love these clinics because of the location, parking, and accessibility. While some orthopedic conditions require surgery, many conditions resolve with medications, therapy, bracing and injections. It’s a privilege to help people through a painful, vulnerable time or injury and be a part of their team as they return to their desired activity level. When people are happy with their experience and are comfortable referring their family or friend to you, it’s very fulfilling and that’s when you start to feel like part of the community.
In addition to seeing patients in office, you also serve as the team physician for the Alabama Ballet, Calera High School and Shelby County High School. What’s it been like working with these athletes?
Dr. Henderson: My experience working with high school, college and professional athletes is very rewarding. There is no greater feeling than helping an athlete return to play. Whether it’s a weekend warrior training for their first race or a senior football player trying to compete in his last game. Helping athletes get back to their sport is one of my favorite parts of this job.
Through football and basketball games, I’ve gotten to visit a lot of the ‘Over The Mountain’ communities and have really enjoyed meeting the students and their families. Everybody’s been really welcoming.
We’re also doing a lot to teach athletes, coaches and parents about prevention as well. For instance, Dr. Andrews and our group has published extensively on prevention of overuse injuries in baseball. We work closely with the trainers and coaches at the school to help keep these kids healthy.
You met your husband, Spence, in Birmingham and decided this was the city where you wanted to put down roots. What are some of your favorite things about Birmingham?
Dr. Henderson: Birmingham has a small-city feel with all the big-city amenities. We love going to Barons baseball games, Alabama Ballet performances and Tragic City Roller Derby bouts. We also take advantage of all the outdoor opportunities that are nearby, like Oak Mountain State Park and Ruffner and Red Mountain Parks. We bring our dog Zoe on as many adventures as possible. We love the hiking, swimming, biking and yoga communities here and have met a lot of people that way. And of course, football season is always interesting since our house is divided between me, a Georgia bulldog, and my husband, an Auburn tiger. Overall, it’s a great place to live and work!
Looking ahead, what are your hopes for Andrews Sports Medicine in the next two years and beyond?
Dr. Henderson: Above all, my top priority is helping my patients meet their goals. I want to continue building relationships in the community to better serve their needs and promote access to sports, recreation and healthy activities. I strive to stay at the forefront of evidence-based sports medicine and minimally invasive procedures with musculoskeletal ultrasound in order to offer my patients the best care possible. Dr. Andrews built Birmingham into a hub for sports medicine and I think we have a team here that is motivated to continue growing his legacy.
Dr. Henderson is accepting new patients at our St. Vincent's Birmingham, St. Vincent's One Nineteen and Pelham locations. Call (205) 939-3699 to schedule an appointment today