Kaiser Permanente serves the professional ice hockey team with both high-quality medical care and as a community health partner — 365 days a year, 24-7. (Team Physicians, left to right: Harley Goldberg, DO; David Nix, MD; Anthony Abene, MD; Scott Crow, MD; Mark Davies, MD; Katherine Gray, MD; Young Yoon, MD; Alec Uy, MD; Christopher Fowler, MD.)
By Lynn Mundell
Each time the San Jose Sharks hit the ice for home and playoff games, there must always be three essential people at rink-side.
Their Kaiser Permanente Team Physicians.
Doctors in emergency medicine, primary care, and orthopedic surgery have the athletes’ health covered during the games, in case of anything from headaches to major injury. (During away games, opposing teams care for the Sharks, just as the Kaiser Permanente physicians care for visiting athletes in San Jose.)
Kaiser Permanente’s role as Team Physicians dates back two years — but may be coming more to the forefront as the Sharks play the Pittsburgh Penguins during the Stanley Cup Final.
For those unfamiliar with the event, the Stanley Cup Final is to professional hockey what the Super Bowl is to football.
The championship series determines the winner of the Stanley Cup, the oldest professional sports trophy in North America, dating back to 1893.
Today, the championship round of the National Hockey League’s playoffs is a best of seven series played between champions of the Eastern and Western Conferences.
This year, the San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins compete. The Sharks narrowly lost last Saturday, and lost Wednesday’s game in overtime. They return to home ice this Saturday.
Adding to the excitement, this is the Sharks’ first Stanley Cup Final in its 25-year history.
A Close Collaboration
Kaiser Permanente’s role with the team goes deeper and longer than the championship, though.
Head Team Physician Mark Davies, MD, a Kaiser Permanente San Jose orthopedic surgeon additionally board certified in sports medicine, has been rink-side at approximately 60 games over two years.
He is one of seven Team Physicians who have the responsibility of covering all home games during the regular season.
“Kaiser Permanente is extremely well suited to support the Sharks in the role of Team Physicians,” Dr. Davies said. “We have an integrated system focused on preventive care, and our sports medicine specialists, both surgeons and non-operative physicians, have trained at the top programs in sports medicine. Entrusted with the health of the team, we are proud to offer the whole package.”
In addition to serving the athletes, Kaiser Permanente provides care throughout the year to their spouses, children, and coaches, for a total of approximately 120 people. As with all members, care is available 24-7 — with the caveat that a small sub-group of physicians is available to the athletes beyond the traditional work week.
One is Katherine Gray, MD, who is board certified in orthopedic surgery and hand surgery, her specialty for the team.
“I have been called upon to see the players in off-hours and on days off, as well as in the traditional office place. It is something we are all happy to do as it is a privilege to care for and partner with such high-level athletes.”
Caring for the Community
The Northern California Region first became a medical provider to a major sports franchise in 2013, for the Sacramento Kings basketball team, following 20 years of serving as the health care provider for its non-player employees.
Similarly, the two-year relationship with the Sharks has deep roots: The hockey team and Kaiser Permanente share an interest in improving the total health of the community with a partnership called Stick to Fitness that focuses on getting the message of healthy eating and active living to low-income middle-schoolers.
“Kaiser Permanente and the Sharks share a tremendous focus on bettering the community,” Dr. Davies said.
Last year, Stick to Fitness reached 3,000 sixth-graders.
Whatever the outcome of the games over the next two weeks, Dr. Davies said he is rooting for the team.
“It’s an honor to take care of these athletes. This is a team effort among many at Kaiser Permanente, and we are proud to be around for the ride and to help the Sharks achieve their dreams.”