He could have been a household name. Kids could have had his baseball card to trade, and other fans might have chatted about his stats while watching him swing a bat at lightning speed.
Dr. Paul Morris (’66), professor emeritus of physics, certainly knows the name and the man who carries it: Joel Wells, M.D. (’06). He recalls not only Wells’ intellectual prowess as a biology student, but his talent on the Wildcat baseball diamond, where his prodigious hitting set a season record in home runs (18 in 2006) and placed him on the top 10 career list in seven categories.
But what truly impressed Morris was when Wells was selected by the New York Mets in the MLB amateur draft his senior year, he instead chose Tulane Medical School in New Orleans, Louisiana, as part of its first class to return to the reopened campus after Hurricane Katrina.
In 2006 he became the first ACU baseball player to win a prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.
Choosing the medical field over sports at that pivotal time in his life “showed his character,” Morris said.
Wells may not be famous, but he is certainly known and beloved by the patients he cares for and the students he mentors as one of the top surgeons in North Texas to treat hip dysplasia, hip impingement and complex hip deformities. A faculty member at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Texas, he is considered an expert at performing periacetabular osteotomy.
“When a patient gives you the privilege and the trust to help take care of them and have you operate on them, it’s not something that’s a shift job,” Wells said. “I take calls 24/7. If one of my patients is in the hospital, I’m going into the hospital every day to see them. That’s how I like to treat this profession of being a surgeon – it’s such a privilege. That’s what I love about it and what fulfills me. I still say I have the best job in the world.”
Wells credits his mother, Charlotte Wells, for his work ethic and says his grandfather, Ed Petroski, was his biggest baseball fan – he would go to every game Wells played, first at Cooper High School in Abilene and then at ACU where he drove in 70 runs while leading the Wildcats to a 47-13 record his senior year. After Tulane, Wells interned in surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, served his residency in orthopaedic surgery at Harvard Combined Orthopaedic and Surgery Residency Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, and served a fellowship at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.
Wells met his wife, Katerina (also a surgeon), at Tulane, and they have a 2-year-old son, Gabe.
While his educational training is certainly elite, Wells is quick to note that his pre-health courses at ACU are what helped him succeed in medical school.
“I have to say that I was better prepared than the majority of students in my class because the curriculum at ACU for pre-med is top notch,” he said. “The requirements to fulfill and the expectations to meet are tough. It required work. And playing baseball at ACU taught me so much more than just playing on the field. The team, the service, the love for our Lord – all of it is so important.”