Emory Report
August 4, 2008
Volume 60, Number 36



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August 4, 2008
Emory PA student on team to provide care at Olympics

By Kim Urquhart

An Emory physician assistant student will represent Georgia at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. His team: the 62-member medical staff selected by the United States Olympic Committee.

Harris Patel, a certified athletic trainer enrolled in Emory’s Physician Assistant Program, left for China July 28 to spend five weeks with the Olympic athletes. His first stop is training camp in Dalian before heading to the games in Beijing.

Patel’s responsibilities at the games will include prepping U.S. Olympians — primarily the track and field athletes — for practice or competition and evaluating injuries. He will also be involved with treatment and rehabilitation programs.

“We are on call for the athletes 24/7 because they depend on us as medical professionals,” says Patel. “We have to be on our feet for any medical emergency both on and off the field.”

But you won’t see him on TV. His work will be behind-the-scenes, he says.

Patel began his career as an athletic trainer in 1998 and has been working with premier athletes since he was an undergraduate at the University of Georgia. Patel’s experience throughout graduate school and beyond is an impressive mixture of working on the medical staff of NFL football teams and spending his summers working with Olympic athletes.

His relationship with the USOC began in 2003 when he was selected to go to Canada for the Youth World Championships in Athletics. He interned with the USOC medical staff in Colorado Springs in 2004, working with all varieties of U.S. athletes, and traveled to Helsinki, Finland, for the 2005 World Championships in Athletics. In 2006, he traveled to Birmingham, England, for a track and field meet, and then to the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Patel will work the games with many of the same colleagues from these events. “It’s important that we gel as a medical staff to take care of 600-plus athletes to help them perform at their best,” he says.

Patel’s patients at Emory Orthopedics & Spine Center, his recent clinical rotation, often asked what he most looked forward to. He answers: “Experiencing the Chinese culture, and experiencing my first Olympic games.”

As the only medical professional from Georgia assigned to the USOC medical staff, Patel has also attracted media attention. “I’m just excited about spreading the news about Emory, Georgia, and PAs and ATCs. I think it’s important to get the word out about what we do,” he says.

Patel wants to stay in the field of primary care and sports medicine when he graduates from the Physician Assistant Program in December of 2008, but he’s not sure where.

“I’ve been very blessed in life, and many doors are open to me,” says Patel. “My family is important to me and medicine is important to me. Whatever plan God has for me is what I’ll take.”