Special application of medicine

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Fall-Winter 2010 Alumni News cover
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A volunteer since his youth, Dr. Michael Clark now supports Special Olympics as a physician

Michael Clark, MD '06“Thousands of people were cheering and clapping as our Wisconsin team marched in,” said Michael Clark, MD ’06, recalling the opening ceremony of the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games. “A rock band was performing and when our athletes got to their section, they couldn’t sit down because they were dancing in their seats! It was very exciting.”

Dr. Clark was team physician to Wisconsin’s 62 Special Olympics athletes who participated in this year’s National Games in Lincoln, Neb., July 18-23, but his involvement with Special Olympics is nearly life-long. “My mother’s sister is a Special Olympian,” he said, “and my grandfather has volunteered with Special Olympics Wisconsin for decades. Cognitive disability was never a foreign concept to me.”

He became a Special Olympics volunteer at age 10. “I told the nurses back then that someday I would be a full member of the Special Olympics medical staff,” he said. “They got a big kick out of that.”


Athletes celebrate on the medal podium during the 2009 Special Olympics Wisconsin Summer Games held in Stevens Point. Alumnus Michael Clark is Medical Director of Special Olympics Wisconsin.

Athletes celebrate on the medal podium during the 2009 Special Olympics Wisconsin Summer Games held in Stevens Point. Alumnus Michael Clark is Medical Director of Special Olympics Wisconsin.

Today he is volunteer Medical Director of Special Olympics Wisconsin and works with some of the same personnel he knew as a youngster. “They’ve kidded me more than once about what I said years ago,” he said.

Kelly Kloepping, Special Olympics Wisconsin Vice President of Communications said, “Dr. Clark is just a wonderful physician who helps out in multiple ways.”

Kloepping said that Dr. Clark has a knack for working with all kinds of individuals. “First are the athletes who range in age from 8 to 90,” she said, “but he’s also excellent with the many staffers, coaches and volunteers we have. He makes people feel comfortable and pitches in to help with just about anything.”

Dr. Clark enjoys working with the athletes. “They are a great bunch of people,” he said. “Our athletes appreciate what I do for them and never complain. They love Special Olympics because competing is fun, and they are able to get out, travel, and meet new people, which they really enjoy.”

Special Olympics medal winner “Let me win.
But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Special Olympics Athlete Oath

Special Olympics also exhibits “true sportsmanship,” he said. “If someone falls during a race, another competitor will stop and help the person get up and cross the finish line.”

He views his work for Special Olympics as “a pure form of medicine” and treats everything from infections to blisters in non-medical settings including buses, dorm rooms and sports venues.

“The games in Lincoln were excellent and highly competitive,” Dr. Clark said. “Wisconsin took home a lot of medals, with quite a few of our athletes achieving personal bests.”

About 3,000 athletes attended the national Special Olympics.

Response to a calling

Michael Clark, MD ’06 (center), accompanied 62 Special Olympians from Wisconsin to Lincoln, Neb., for the 2010 National Games. He served as their team physician.
Michael Clark, MD ’06 (center), accompanied 62 Special Olympics athletes from Wisconsin to Lincoln, Neb., for the 2010 National Games. He served as their team physician.

Dr. Clark grew up in Cudahy, a suburb of Milwaukee. By seventh grade, he was determined to be a firefighter or paramedic.

“I watched Emergency! on TV and imagined myself as Johnny or Roy, the main characters,” he said. By high school, however, his interests and abilities in science turned him toward medicine. He attended Marquette University and received an undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences.

The Medical College of Wisconsin appealed to him because of its Wisconsin location and its reputable emergency medicine department. To help fund his medical education, Dr. Clark received a Ziemann Foundation Loan, which has a fixed-rate of 2 percent and is awarded to individuals who have expressed an interest in working with developmentally disadvantaged individuals.

“We were aware of Michael’s work with Special Olympics, so that is why he was our No. 1 choice to be awarded the Ziemann Loan,” said Linda Paschal, Medical College Director of Student Financial Services. “Michael had the opportunity to meet with the president of the Ziemann Foundation, which confirmed that Michael truly met their criterion and was the first Medical College student to receive the loan in quite a few years.”

Dr. Clark completed his residency at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. “It’s one of the few traditional county hospitals left in the country,” he said. “We saw a high volume of critical care situations in the emergency department, many involving intoxicated patients.”

Leadership in his field

Currently, Dr. Clark is the EMS Medical Director at Ministry St. Clare’s Hospital, in Weston, and Medical Director for the Schofield Fire Department Kronenwetter First Responders. Both towns are near Wausau, Wis.

Most of the cases he sees involve motor vehicle crashes or recreational injuries. He carries a pager and sometimes responds to calls in the field with the Schofield Fire Department. Caring for patients as an emergency physician suits Dr. Clark.
“I like being a jack of all trades, and taking care of injured people with many different needs is a rewarding way of applying my medical training,” he said.

Dr. Clark lives in Wausau and enjoys biking, camping, and “some travel” during off hours away from work and Special Olympics. He is also studying for a master’s degree in public health with an emphasis in emergency preparedness at the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis. This supports one of his special interests – mass casualty hazardous materials situations.


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