- Written by Ben Jacklet
- Category: Mountain Characters
- Published: February 12, 2015
Jeffreys Albright, M.D., decided he was going to be an orthopedic surgeon when he was a young ski racer in seventh grade.
“I had a lot of friends who got hurt racing and had to get their ACLs repaired, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” he says. “We had a time capsule in seventh grade and when we opened it after graduation, mine said I wanted to be a doctor and go to Dartmouth and be an orthopedic surgeon.”
He ended up achieving all three of those goals — and a quite a few others as well.
With three young daughters who race on Mount Hood, tons of mountain friends from skiing and windsurfing, and 16 years of service at Providence Mountain Emergency Services, Dr. Albright is well known around Mount Hood. But because he is fairly soft-spoken and modest, few people realize the extent of his accomplishments.
If you casually know him from the mountain or the clinic, for example, you might not realize that Dr. Albright raced for one of the best college ski teams in the nation, or that he has coached junior racers in British Columbia, New Hampshire and Switzerland. Or that he is a top-flight stand-up paddler and windsurfer who still competes at the age of 48 in Maui and Baja on the American Windsurfing Tour.
Here’s a photo of him shredding the waves, shot by Si Crowther during a windsurfing competition in Maui:
Dr. Albright’s connections to the skiing, snowboarding and water sports communities are a big part of his medical practice at Advantage Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Clinic, where he specializes in shoulder and knee arthroscopy and joint replacement. Quite a few of his surfing and skiing buddies have ended up being his patients, and they appreciate the insight he brings as a hard-core athlete who also happens to be a surgeon.
“It’s nice when your doctor is someone you can relate to,” says pro windsurfer Keith Teboul of Maui. Teboul flew in from Hawaii to Portland to have his knee operated on by Albright a few years ago at the Columbia River Surgical Center, and he was so pleased with the results that he later returned to have his other knee repaired too.
“My knees are great now,” says Teboul. “I am so stoked about that.”
From Michigan to Hood, Maui and the Coast
Dr. Albright grew up in Michigan skiing at Lansing Ski Club, one of those Midwestern ski hills built out of landfill garbage. There was only one chairlift, but it functioned as two lifts because it went up over the top and down the other side, so you could ride it both ways.
“It was a round little bump, about 130 feet of vertical,” he recalls. “But you could do a lot of 17-second slalom training runs in a night there.”
He got addicted to racing early, and by high school he was skiing five days per week and competing in regional races, including some wild 30-second Midwestern downhills.
Vertical or no vertical, he got good enough to compete at Dartmouth, where he studied biology and later medicine. When he wasn’t cramming for exams he was out on the hill training with some of the top ski racers in the country, or traveling to competitions, or coaching promising young athletes through an academy out of Hanover, New Hampshire. He was never a top-tier racer at Dartmouth but he competed for four years and earned a letter in alpine racing.
Dr. Albright completed his medical residency at the University of Rochester, where he took up snowboarding to make the most of the flat terrain of Western New York. From Rochester he moved on to a sports medicine fellowship at Tufts University in Boston, caring for a variety of college athletes.
Through his post-college years he made it a point to spend his summers in Hood River, windsurfing. He came to enjoy Oregon so much that when it was time to find a job, he chose Portland.
A Rotating Team of Mountain Docs
Within a few months of arriving in Portland in August of 1998, Dr. Albright joined the rotation at the medical facility at the the base of Mt. Hood Meadows now known as Providence Mountain Emergency Services. A Mount Hood fixture for decades, this facility is run by Medical Director Dr. Mike Murray with Registered Nurse Nancy Brown and a rotating team of physicians who do a great job treating all sorts of skiing and snowboarding injuries on Mount Hood, with help from volunteer and professional ski patrol crews.
Dr. Albright has worked regular shifts for 16 years at the medical facility at Meadows, usually on Wednesday nights.
“I love Wednesday nights because all the schools are up here, the ski teams and the snowboard teams, so you see a lot of kids," he says. "It’s a pretty busy night but not too crazy.”
Dr. Albright and his MES colleagues treat a lot of shoulder and knee injuries, along with head wounds, fractures and the occasional spinal injury. Because MES is a certified emergency care facility, there is always an emergency physician on the mountain to help with severe trauma cases.
Dr. Albright and other medical professionals say mountain injuries have gotten more severe over the past few years, as terrain parks become larger and more popular.
“There’s always been trees, and there’s always been cliffs," he says. "But there haven’t always been parks. It used to be that we would see some wrist fractures and some dislocated shoulders. Maybe some kids would go out and build their own jump and get 8 or 10 feet of air. But now there are plenty of places where it is condoned to get 30 feet of air. Some of our worst injuries have been kids out-flying the landing and landing on the flats - bilateral femur fractures just from landing. Pelvis fractures, spinal injuries. The trends in snow sports have become more extreme, and the areas have catered to that, which they need to do. But the level of acuity and the seriousness of injuries has increased, a lot.”
'The quality of my life has been given back to me'
Whether the injury is severe or fairly routine, Dr. Albright is very direct with his patients, and very calm. One of his patients, a federal employee named Dianne Bentz, remembers going to see him and being distressed to learn she needed knee replacement surgery.
"He probably didn’t expect me to burst into tears when I learned I needed a knee replacement. But he was very sweet about it," she says.
"I would rather give birth to 10 children than have a knee replaced again," says Bentz. "But the quality of my life has been given back to me."
Another patient, U.S. Outdoor employee James Griffin, says he recommends Dr. Albright to friends all the time.
"My spirits were pretty down after being out for eight months, and he really helped," says Griffin. "You aren't just a number when you go in to see him. And as active as he is in the outdoor sports community, he understands rehab. If you want to get better, he’ll help you get better.”
Griffin has spent time surfing the Oregon Coast with Dr. Albright, and he says, "It's just cool to be at the beach and see your doctor out there in the water, surfing."
Here's a POV shot that Dr. Albright took out at the coast with a GoPro on his stand-up paddle board:
4200 patients at the new surgical center, and counting
Dr. Albright and his wife Molly have three girls who are all young racers for Multnomah Athletic Club. You can find them most weekends at the Mitey Mite race events around Mount Hood, cheering on the little shredders in all weather and snow conditions along with the other racer families.
For his practice with Advantage Orthopedic, Dr. Albright does a lot of knee and shoulder work, everything from cleaning up meniscus to full-on hip replacements. His patients range from serious athletes to regular folks with nagging pains. He says most of the procedures he does use basically the same techniques he learned 20 years ago, with a few advances in technology and materials. He does not do stem cell injections, for example, because there is no real evidence that they work.
"Patients sometimes want the latest and greatest, but someone older and wiser than me once told me, ‘You don’t want to be the first one to try something new, and you don’t want to be the last,’" he says. "You want to wait for the technology to go through the proving ground, and then adopt it — once you know that it’s working well."
Dr. Albright and a group of surgical colleagues established the Columbia River Surgical Center at Cascade Station near the Portland Airport about two and a half years ago, and they have treated about 4200 patients there since its opening.
You can contact the Advantage Orthopedic staff in Gresham, Oregon to set up an appointment with Dr. Albright at 503-661-5388.