Faculty, staff and students at Augusta University and AU Health volunteered July 23 to provide in-person physicals at AU Health’s West Wheeler location for the first time in over two years for area student-athletes.
Student-athletes that attend Richmond County high schools, along with Westminster Schools of Augusta, Augusta Preparatory Day School and Fox Creek High School, were able to have their sports physicals done ahead of the 2022-23 school year.
More than 40 volunteers participated in the event, including physicians, providers and attendings from AU Health Orthopedics; family medicine faculty and residents from the Medical College of Georgia; faculty and residents from Emergency Services; attending physicians, a nurse practitioner and nurse from AU Health Cardiology; the sports athletic medicine trainers that are involved in the outreach program within Richmond County schools; and pediatric nursing staff.
Lisa Branon, supervisor of Orthopedics Ancillary Services, said the collaboration between the departments had been put on hold for the past couple of years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was excited about being able to provide this service in person again to the schools and families.
“For the past two years we had to ask them to get exams from their primary care physician, so they were on their own,” Branon said. “It was a lot more difficult for coaches to organize that and to make sure that their kids were cleared and that they have the paperwork. Coaches love this event because it’s kind of a one-stop shop. As soon as they’re done here, we collect all the forms, we organize everything for them and then we get it back to them at their schools. They know which kids are cleared, which kids aren’t and which kids need follow-up. It makes it a lot easier on them.”
Branon said the AU Health Orthopedics Department has contracts with the schools where athletic trainers are assigned to those schools and cover all sporting events and practices. The Georgia High School Association and the Georgia Independent School Association require children to have sports physicals before they can participate in an activity.
As part of the contract, they organize the mass physicals event every year, which is free of charge.
Branon said the families were excited to know the event had returned and she realizes the importance of being able to do these types of events live.
“The families were very excited to have heard of this and we’ve had multiple students come through with parents today,” Branon said at the event.
“We understand that sometimes it can be hard for parents to get kids here, so we worked in collaboration with Richmond County school superintendent and the county athletic director to organize buses to go to each of the schools to pick up the kids and bring them here and then take them back once they’re done. It does take a little bit of stress off the parents.”
“Everyone has pitched in to help pull this off and we’ve got a good team coming together,” Ledford said. “Now that we have the ability to see folks again, our athletes can get good screenings and get them active in their sport safely.”
Ledford also noted that events like this are crucial to the development of the students, residents and fellows coming through their programs. It helps them use what they’re learning in the classroom and apply it to real-world scenarios.
“To see and hear something in the classroom, and then see and hear it and watch it in person applied to a living patient in front of you, in my experience with learners has helped to solidify the learning. You always have that example in your mind like ‘Oh, yeah, remember, this is how we deal with this kind of thing, not what the textbook said,’ but how we see it in the patient in front of us, and then apply the textbook knowledge and get the athletes safely taken care of or whatever the case may be.”
James Mansfield has been able to participate in multiple events during his first year at MCG. He echoed Ledford’s stance of the importance of the hands-on learning.
“I think it’s very helpful for me to be able to go from the classroom to real practical events like these because a lot of times, what we learn in the textbook is not always what’s applied in every single situation because everyone’s different,” Mansfield said . “I really like it because it helps me have that reminder of what I’m working towards because I’m not working to study just from a textbook the rest of my life. I’m working to be able to help treat patients and be able to learn how to interact better, build those connections, and just grow in the technical competence as well.”
Mansfield also said he’s learning he can draw on his own life experiences to help connect with the patients that he interacts with.
“I am finding that being able to pull from my past experiences to relate to them and connect — whether it’s from my prior work experience or just possibly from my dance experience — and being able to find a common connection with people who might be student- athletes or other patient populations has been extremely helpful. And these are the things that I don’t always think about or really come up in the classroom, but definitely I’m reminded about every day when I participate in these more volunteer work and clinical kinds of experiences.”