LOUISVILLE, Ky. – More than 300 Special Olympics athletes and students from Jefferson and Bullitt Counties received free athletic physicals and health screening exams at University of Louisville’s Cardinal Stadium on Oct. 17. University of Louisville physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) resident and faculty physicians provided the service as part of MedFest, an event organized by Special Olympics of Kentucky (SOKY) in partnership with Jefferson County Public Schools.
MedFest, part of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Initiative, is an annual event providing free pre-participation physicals for SOKY athletes and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the community age 8 through adult. The physicals are required for the athletes to compete in Special Olympics activities or unified track or bowling through the Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Optional dental, vision and hearing screenings also are offered to the students and athletes.
“It’s so important for our athletes to receive the medical screenings that they need. We know that through MedFest screenings, underlying conditions a lot of times are determined,” said Kim Satterwhite, senior director of field and athlete services for SOKY.
Priya Chandan, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in the UofL Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation who serves as clinical director for the event, said participation in MedFest is not only a service to the community, but also a learning opportunity for the providers.
“Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) experience health disparities, partly because many physicians in the community are not trained to provide care for them,” Chandan said. “It’s important for our trainees – medical residents and students, nurse practitioner and nursing students, and other providers – to have this opportunity to interact with this population.”
Maria Janakos, M.D., a resident physician in physical medicine and rehabilitation, was one of 10 UofL physicians who volunteered to provide pre-participation physical exams at this year’s event.
“The athletes are amazing individuals who have tremendous motivation and determination to succeed,” Janakos said. “It is rewarding to have the opportunity to interact with them. One of the individuals I met loves to play basketball. He told me his favorite athlete was LeBron James.”
MedFest has been held every year since 2005. The location alternates between Louisville and Lexington, however UofL PM&R physicians and trainees provide the screenings every year.
Dallas Derringer, one of the athletes at the event to obtain a physical for bowling, basketball and softball, expressed gratitude for the service: “This physical is going to help me be ready!”