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VCU Health: Caring for the world during the Worlds

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(From left to right) Ashley Harwood, D.P.T., Hillary Martinez, D.P.T., and Rebecca Moran, D.P.T., treat the injuries of a cyclist from Thailand.

Remnants of the 2015 UCI Road World Championships still line the streets of Richmond, but the races are over, the athletes and tourists have returned home and members of Virginia Commonwealth University Health are back to their normal work schedules.

VCU Health was the exclusive medical provider during the nine-day international cycling event. Health team members provided care to the influx of athletes, spectators and tourists, in addition to handling their daily work responsibilities and caring for patients and the community.

Physicians, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, nurses and care partners staffed VCU Health’s freestanding medical tent, set up on Broad Street between 3rd and 4th streets, to provide care and treat any injuries experienced by the cyclists. They also helped staff the medical cars that trailed the cyclists closely throughout each event and occasionally halted for on-the-spot treatment. These participating providers had backgrounds in emergency medicine, sports medicine, internal medicine and surgery.

VCU Health medical tent team members.
VCU Health medical tent team members.

The tent was open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, except for Sept. 25 when it was open until 9 p.m. to accommodate the “Conquer the Cobbles” event, in which 1,400 people participated. More than 100 medical providers rotated through the tent and treated 39 patients, including athletes and other members of the cycling teams, over the nine days.

Physical therapists with VCU Sports Medicine Physical Therapy were scheduled in three shifts, 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 3-7 p.m. in the medical tent, as well as a 7 p.m. to midnight shift in the sports medicine clinic to provide after-hours care for athletes in need.

Ashley Harwood, D.P.T., a physical therapist with VCU Sports Medicine Physical Therapy, along with five other physical therapists, took an emergency medical responder course in the spring that prepared her to care for common cyclist injuries such as road rash, cuts, fractures and concussions. All medical providers also went through simulation training in August to prepare.

Seeing how appreciative the athletes are after receiving care has made this an incredible experience.

“Seeing how appreciative the athletes are after receiving care has made this an incredible experience,” Harwood said. “It’s also exciting to see the teamwork in action with practitioners we wouldn’t normally work hand-in-hand with.”

The tent’s location on Broad Street, near the race start/finish line, allowed the medical providers to be close to the action and the athletes. If an injury occurred, the physicians and coaches in the support cars on the course could get the cyclist to medical care quickly.

Handheld radios kept everyone in the tent aware of what was happening on the race course. If an injured cyclist was being transported to the tent, the medical providers were informed, told how much time before his or her arrival, and were able to prepare. This allowed the team, consisting of a physician/nurse practitioner, physical therapist, nurse and care partner, to treat the athlete as promptly as possible.

Allen Yee, M.D., assistant professor in the Division of Emergency Medical Services, and operational medical director for Chesterfield County Fire and EMS, rotated through the tent as the supervising physician. “The most exciting part is creating a multidisciplinary team full of folks who have never worked together and transforming it into an efficient and effective team,” Yee said.

Allen Yee, M.D., gives instructions to the medical team at the start of a race day.
Allen Yee, M.D., gives instructions to the medical team at the start of a race day.

After receiving treatment, each athlete was given a “goodie bag” full of the medical supplies used to treat their injury. This allowed them to redress their own injuries at the end of the day. They also had the option to come back to the tent and most opted to return for follow-up treatment, citing the exceptional care.

The most common injuries treated were road rash, bumps and bruises, cuts – some deep enough to require stitches -- muscle spasms, concussions and clavicle fractures.

If there was a language barrier between the athlete and the medical providers, an iPad loaded with a MARTI translation service was available to find help. MARTI stands for My Accessible Real Time Trusted Interpreter. Pushing the start button connects the user to a live video feed of a MARTI operator who can connect the user to a translator for just about any foreign language.

Between races and during down time, physicians set up workshops such as tourniquet tying and suturing for those who wanted to learn. Physical therapists and care partners do not have the opportunity to utilize these techniques during their daily work duties and appreciated the chance to expand their base of knowledge.

Team members also had the opportunity to participate in race-related events in unexpected ways. Die-hard cycling fan Lisa Brath, M.D., interim director and chair of the VCU Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Division and medical director of the Unique Pathogens Unit, signaled the start of the men’s under-23 world championship race. Rebecca Moran, D.P.T., physical therapist with VCU Sports Medicine Physical Therapy, handed flowers to the winners during the medal ceremony for the men’s junior time trial.

Rebecca Moran, D.P.T., hands flowers to Adrien Costa, a USA cyclist, during the medal ceremony for the men’s junior individual time trial. Costa came in second place.
Rebecca Moran, D.P.T., hands flowers to Adrien Costa, a USA cyclist, during the medal ceremony for the men’s junior individual time trial. Costa came in second place.

“I was very surprised and excited to find out that I got to hand out the flowers,” Moran said. “As I was being escorted to the podium, a lady said to me, ‘This is equivalent to the Olympics for these cyclists,’ and that’s when it hit me how cool of an opportunity this was. Never in my life did I think I would stand on a stage with world-class cyclists, much less be part of their medal ceremony. What an awesome opportunity.”

For Moran and others, the Worlds amounted to a series of memorable opportunities, both inside and outside of the medical realm. The event ultimately broadened the experience of VCU Health’s participating medical staff, who thrived at the chance to play an integral part in the operation of one of the signature events in Richmond’s recent history.

Never in my life did I think I would stand on a stage with world-class cyclists, much less be part of their medal ceremony.

 

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