Twenty-four medical professionals from Ministry Health Care facilities in central Wisconsin and their families volunteered to give free physical exams to current and prospective Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) athletes during Special Olympics Medfest on Saturday, December 7 at Dales Weston Lanes.
Ministry Health Care became a Medfest partner three years ago and has since provided the supplies and volunteers needed to hold the physical exams at the bowling alley during the SOWI Northern State Fall Sports Tournament. According to SOWI’s Director of Athlete Wellness, Melissa Schoenbrodt, the insight of one of the individuals volunteering that day helped launch Medfest in Wisconsin five years ago.
“I was hesitant to offer MedFest since I wanted athletes to have a medical home in their community and receive physicals from a local physician. Dr. Michael Clark changed my mind by telling me any physical is better than no physical,” said Schoenbrodt.
Dr. Clark is an Emergency Medicine Physician at Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital in Weston and also serves as the facilities Emergency Medical Systems (EMS) Medical Director. As the Medfest Clinical Director, Dr. Clark recruits volunteers from Ministry facilities to work at the event each year. According to Dr. Clark, Medfest gives all athletes an opportunity to receive the physical exam they need to continue participating in SOWI.
This year, medical volunteers from Ministry Saint Clare’s, Ministry Saint Michaels’s Hospital, Stevens Point; Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Marshfield, Ministry Good Samaritan Health Center, Merrill and Ministry Medical Group clinics throughout central Wisconsin participated in MedFest.
“I am aware of multiple athletes whom are unable to obtain regular medical care. MedFest has allowed them to continue to participate by providing the needed sports physical,” he said. It’s not only the athletes who benefit from Medfest. According to Dr. Clark, healthcare providers often receive inadequate training in the treatment of persons with intellectual disabilities (ID). “I was sold on Medfest when Dr. Clark told me about the lack of training medical students get on working with individuals with intellectual disabilities. This is a fantastic hands-on service learning training for residents, medical students, and professionals already in the medical field. The goal is after volunteering the students and medical professionals will feel more comfortable seeing patients with ID and better service them,” said Schoenbrodt.
Special Olympics is an organization near to Dr. Clarks’ heart. He started volunteering to hand out awards to athletes with his grandfather when he was in high school. While in college, he joined a student group called Marquette Supporting Special Olympics and helped provide medical coverage for the first-ever Marquette-MPS soccer invitational in 2002. For the past nine years, he has served as the Medical Director for SOWI where he donates approximately 180 hours a year to preparing for and coordinating overnight medical coverage at five State Games throughout the year as well as the Special Olympics USA Games and Medical College of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Public Schools (MCW-MPS) Physical Day. In December of 2013, SOWI appointed Dr. Clark to the Board of Directors.
“I hope to bring a perspective on how SOWI can continue to improve the lives of persons with ID through increased physical activity, Healthy Athletes® screenings and educational events,” he said.
To learn more about Medfest, visit http://specialolympicswisconsin.org/athletewellness/.