Posted: February 14, 2014
Sports biz PRO-file
Colorado doctor goes the distanceGigi Sukin
That is the distance in miles it took Dr. Gloria Beim to get to work from her hometown of Crested Butte. As chief medical officer for Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Beim is willing to travel near and far for her “love of taking care of athletes. Their energy, their spirit — it’s quite amazing,” she says.
Since a February 2013 phone call from Dr. Bill Morea, medical director of the United States Olympic Committee, during which Beim learned she would lead the medical team at the 2014 Winter Games, she has thrown herself into the role, ordering the Pimsleur Approach the day she found out and studying Russian an hour a day in her car ever since. “I want to be fluent. I think it will help the team,” said the orthopedic surgeon, who specializes in sports medicine.
Her responsibilities entail working with the director of sports medicine for the U.S. Olympic Committee to coordinate medical care for Team USA’s athletes and supervising roughly 70 medical staff members. While in Sochi, she will oversee all athletes’ medical needs, from managing common colds and infections to treating injuries sustained during competition.
“These athletes will be pushed to the brink, and we do everything within our power to ensure they remain healthy and are ready to compete,” Beim said. “We’re the team behind the team.”
Never reluctant to learn, Beim was admitted to college at the age of 14, aspiring to become a medical professional since childhood, but turning her attention from pets to people around 16. “I originally wanted to be a veterinarian,” said the doctor, who was born to Holocaust survivor parents and attributes their struggle as a source of inspiration. But after a bad knee injury she switched her focus to human medicine. For the past 17 years, she has been practicing in Gunnison Valley.
Beim brings new methods and different procedures learned while traveling internationally to better her own business back home. “Some of the techniques … the way you treat certain sports injuries, I’ve learned on the road and would never have been exposed to them without those experiences.”
For instance, after learning the cutting-edge technique of guided mastic ultrasound while overseas, Beim was able to help patients overcome injury without expensive and unnecessary MRIs.
“Traveling and learning continuously has helped me help my patients, respond to emergencies and be quick on my feet, whether treating athletes or not,” she said.
Beim says recent health-care reform and legislation has not impacted her practice.
“Not at all. I went into medicine so I could take care of people and that’s where I direct my energy,” she said.
Anticipating her trip abroad, the mother of two looks forward to bringing her family along for the Russia ride for three weeks while on the job. Her daughter, Skylar, 11, hopes to follow in her mother’s footsteps as an orthopedist.
As far as advice goes for future physicians: “You work your way up the ladder,” Beim said. She expects to put in 18-22 hour days while in Sochi. “The second you hit the ground, you start working.”
Tune into the games Feb. 7-23.
Her road to Sochi:
Age 14: College — University of California, San Diego
Medical School — University of California, San Diego
Orthopedic Residency — Columbia University
Specialty Fellowship — University of Pittsburgh Center for Sports Medicine
1996 — Began working
in private practice in Gunnison Valley
1997 — USA Cycling,
1999 — Founded her practice, Alpine Orthopedics, Sports Medicine & Regional Hand Center
2000 — Began working with U.S. Olympic Committee
2003 — Winter World University, Italy. Ski team doctor
2004 — Olympic Games, Athens, team physician
2005 — Chief Medical Officer, World University Games, Turkey
2006 — Built Alpine Surgery Center
2011 — Pan-Am Games, Guadalajara, CMO
2012 — Venue medical director, 2012 Olympic Games, London
Gigi Sukin is an Associate Editor at ColoradoBiz. She can be reached at email@example.com.