The Good Doctor
For nearly half a century, Frank McCue has
been the athlete’s best friend
By Robert Viccellio
by Andrew Shurtleff
McCue is officially retired, he is still a fixture at U.Va.
fan belts, wrenches and cans of motor oil, a group of high school
athletes and their coaches gather in the back of a service station
in the small town of Crewe. It’s not long before the doctor
from out of town arrives to examine the athletes, all of whom
are nursing sports-related injuries. After he completes his diagnoses,
Frank C. McCue III — internationally recognized orthopedic
surgeon and sports-medicine pioneer — gets back on the road
to bring his medical expertise to yet another group of athletes.
While that filling station was one of the more unusual settings
in which McCue examined patients, it exemplifies a hallmark of
his career: the willingness to be available to anyone, any time
and any place. Over the years, McCue, 72, has treated thousands
of high school and college athletes from all over the state, most
of them at no charge. In fact, he has treated so many high school
students for free that the Virginia High School Coaches Association
named its annual sports-medicine award for him. Before other colleges
had their own team orthopedists, they would send their injured
athletes to McCue, whom they dubbed the “miracle man.”
For decades, McCue’s medical barnstorming was a necessity.
“There weren’t many orthopedic surgeons in the state
back then, and doctors just weren’t interested in taking
care of athletes,” McCue said.
Though he’s revered for his generosity, McCue’s main
work and greatest passion has been at the University of Virginia,
where he’s trained young doctors and cared for Cavalier
athletes for more than 40 years.
McCue received his undergraduate degree from U.Va. in 1952, and
then stayed in Charlottesville to attend medical school and complete
his residency. During his last year of medical school, he agreed
to assist Lou Onesty, the Cavaliers’ only trainer, who was
stretched thin with various coaching responsibilities.
After a two-year hand-surgery fellowship in California, McCue
returned to the University in 1961. He’s been a fixture
During his career, McCue has been a professor of orthopedic surgery
and the director of U.Va.’s Division of Sports Medicine
and Hand Surgery. His work as team physician, however, has been
an unpaid labor of love. “I coached at two other schools,
and Frank was the only team doctor who came to most of the practices,”
said former U.Va. football coach George Welsh. “He just
wanted to be there.”
McCue enjoys the rare honor of working in a building that bears
his name. “I never thought I’d have anything named
after me other than my son,” he said with characteristic
humility. Yet without his involvement, the McCue Center —
facility — would not have been finished as quickly.
“He’s really what got this building built,”
said Joe Gieck, director of Sports Medicine, who has worked alongside
McCue since 1962. “We didn’t have the money raised
until we started putting forth his name. The money then came in
overnight. That shows you the respect that people have for him
and the number of things that he’s done for people.”
“He does things out of care and love for the players, not
just because he’s the doctor and that’s his job,”
said Anthony Poindexter, graduate assistant football coach and
a former All-American safety at Virginia whose 1998 senior season
was cut short by a severe knee injury that was repaired by McCue.
“Everything he does, he does it from the heart. You’d
think it was a fairy tale if somebody told you about Doc McCue.
You’d think that there’s no way in the world that
anybody could be that kind and generous.”
Legions of doctors also have benefited from their association
with McCue. Jim Andrews, an orthopedic surgeon in Birmingham,
Ala., was one of McCue’s students while a U.Va. medical
resident in the 1970s.
“Frank McCue could be considered a father to me relative
to my sports-medicine career,” Andrews told the Richmond
Times-Dispatch when the McCue Center was dedicated in 1991. “He
gave me the guidance early on to understand, in more than one
way, how athletes think and how to talk to them and how to motivate
them. Of course, the surgical skills of Frank McCue are second
Andrews isn’t alone in his reverence for McCue. A group
of the doctor’s former residents and fellows, along with
professors, doctors and trainers, formed the McCue Society in
1987. With a membership numbering in the thousands, the society
provides scholarships and meets annually to share the latest advances
in sports medicine.
Although McCue officially retired last spring, he can still be
found on the sidelines or in his office every day. “I get
at least 10 calls a day from coaches, patients, friends and doctors,”
he said. “They know I’m not operating anymore, but
they want some advice.”