Caring for Olympic Team a Golden Opportunity

May 21, 2018 08:45 am David Mitchell

Allyson Howe, M.D., was an All-American soccer player at William Smith College, where she also was a starter on the Herons' basketball team. When she arrived at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Howe knew she wanted athletics to be part of her future, too.

[headshot of Allyson Howe, M.D.]

"I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon because I thought that's who takes care of athletes," Howe said.

During her first year in Buffalo, family physician Myron Glick, M.D., asked Howe some simple but important questions regarding what she liked about medicine and why she wanted to be a surgeon.

"I said, 'I want to work with athletes,'" Howe said. "He said, 'When you were an athlete, how many surgeries did you have?'"

Despite the rigors of being a multi-sport athlete through high school and college, Howe never needed surgery. Glick pointed out that most athletes don't need a surgeon, but they all need a physician.

"It was like a light bulb went on," Howe said. "During my family medicine rotation, I realized I loved the stethoscope, I loved looking in ears and noses, and I loved hearing about whatever patients' families were going through -- with or without athletics. I followed my heart, and I'm so glad I did."

Howe -- who served 20 years in the military -- continued her training at the Travis Family Practice Residency Program at the David Grant U.S. Air Force Medical Center in Fairfield, Calif. She also completed a sports medicine fellowship through the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

After completing active duty, Howe joined the sports medicine division at Maine Medical Center in 2008, and her work there led her to an opportunity to become a team doctor for USA Hockey. In 2010, she accompanied the U.S. women's team to the Under-18 World Championships in Sweden. Eight members of that team represented the United States in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where the U.S. team defeated Canada, 3-2, in a shootout to clinch the gold medal.

Howe was the Olympic team's head physician.

"Someone said to me recently, 'Do you think you'll ever see any of them again?'" Howe said May 10, 11 weeks after the finals in Pyeongchang. "I said, 'Are you kidding me? Three of them texted me this morning.' I'm their doctor. I'm lucky to be involved in their lives like this."

Howe, who also was a general physician for the U.S. Olympic Committee during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, practices family and sports medicine in Portland, Maine, when she's not volunteering her time to U.S. Hockey.

"It's a calling to me," she said. "It's who I am. It's exactly what Dr. Glick told me it would be."