National University of Health Sciences’ Dean of Clinics, David Parish, DC, DACBSP, CCSP, will be an official chiropractic physician for Team USA at the 2012 Paralympics in London. The Paralympics are held directly after the Olympics in the same Olympic venues, and are the ultimate international competitive events for world-class athletes that are differently abled.
The medical team for the Paralympics consists of DCs, MDs, DOs, PTs, ATCs, MTs, and other health care specialists. The medical group works together throughout the event, integrating their expertise to keep athletes performing at their best.
The Road To London
As one of two DCs on the medical team, Dr. Parish has gone through several years of volunteer medical service to qualify to work at the event. “There are four tiers of events a physician must qualify for and participate in to ultimately be eligible for selection to work at the Paralympic or Olympic games,” says Dr. Parish.
Parish began the long-road to the Paralympic medical team back in 2006 when he volunteered for two weeks as a medical provider at the U.S. Olympic Complex training center in Colorado Springs. Moving on to the second tier in the Olympic process, he was selected to participate as a medical provider at national rowing and national indoor track and field championships.
In his third tier of service, he treated athletes at the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. “The Parapan Am Games feature Olympic-level athletes. This can include wheelchair athletes, those with cerebral palsy, mental handicaps, and other physical constraints. Some were Olympic athletes that were later injured, in addition to many who were wounded in military service,” says Dr. Parish. At the Parapan Am Games, Parish was assigned to the table tennis team and the power lifting team, and also cared for other athletes at the USA team clinic.
Dr. Parish was graded by both athletes and his peers at each of these three tiers of volunteer service. “The Parapan Am Games are especially critical, because we get to know the athletes and they get to know us. Just because you work at one of the tiered events, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll move up,” Parish explains. “Team USA wants a medical providers for the Paralympics who are comfortable with each other and who work well with the athletes. Athletes will request you and recommend you and that carries a lot of weight in the decision.”
Anticipating the 2012 Paralympics
Dr. Parish anticipates that working at the Paralympics will be very similar to his experience at the Parapan Am Games. “It is a long day and hard work, but very rewarding. Many people ask me what sights I saw at the different event locations. I usually answer ‘nothing.’ At these events, you’re not a tourist. Our work day is from 7:30 am – 10:30 pm, so you don’t have time to focus on anything else.”
“The Paralympic athletes do have physical challenges, but in the end, their biggest challenges are the same as other Olympic athletes,” says Dr. Parish. ” The Olympic motto is ‘faster, higher and braver.’ To me, Para-Olympians embody those principles to an even higher degree than regular Olympians. If you’re running down a track with one leg, or are blind and riding the back of a tandem bicycle, that’s bravery!”
“I have to admit, I probably get more out of these events than the athletes do,” says Dr. Parish. “I come back and expect more out of myself and more out of our students.”
Parish oversees the National University’s eight clinics, which include six NUHS Whole Health Centers. In his spare time, he also volunteers assisting local youth sports teams. He is able to bring the inspiration from his work with Olympic and Para-Olympic athletes to many young athletes and students interested in sports medicine.
National University’s Olympic History
Dr. David Parish joins several other NUHS alumni and faculty who have worked with Olympic athletes, or served as official physicians for Olympic games. Most notably, Dr. George Goodheart, who graduated from National in 1939, was the very first official Team USA chiropractor at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.
More recently, Dr. Timothy Stark, current chair of clinical sciences on National University’s Florida campus, worked at both Atlanta and Sydney Olympics under the auspices of the International Federation of Sports Chiropractic (FICS). Dr. Robert Appleyard, chair of basic sciences at National University’s Illinois campus, served as an official judge for rowing events at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Dr. Blasé Toto, who graduated from National in 1985, joined Team USA’s medical staff for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
“National University is proud to have Dr. Parish serve as both an ambassador for chiropractic medicine and as a sports medicine physician at the 2012 London Paralympics,” says NUHS President James F. Winterstein. “We’re cheering for both him and Team USA!”
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(photos: Top – Coach Butch Schovanec, bronze medalist power-lifter Mary Stack, Dr. David Parish
Bottom – Dr. David Parish, Coach Mary Hodge, athlete Ahmed Shafik with bronze medal and Coach Butch Schovanec. Photos taken at the Parapan Am Games)