Sports medicine physician embraces failure, encourages you to pursue your passion
Aneesh Garg, DO, CAQ is board-certified and fellowship-trained in non-surgical sports medicine for injuries from head to toe including concussion management and fracture care. He recently opened a new practice in Boulder, Dynamic Athlete Sports Medicine & Regenerative Orthopaedics.
Dr. Garg serves as a team physician for USA Hockey and U.S. Soccer, and he has served as team physician, medical director and tournament physician for high school and college teams. Dr. Garg serves on the sports medicine teaching faculty at numerous universities and hospitals, and also acts as an industry consultant and speaker. He leads the Dynamic Athlete Concussion Clinic and has been a certified ImPACT consultant specializing in the management of concussion injuries.
Who or what inspired you to pursue medicine?
Aneesh Garg (AG): It’s funny, I tried really hard not to become a doctor. My father and one sister are cardiologists, and I remember that I wanted to make sure I was doing this for the right reasons and not feeling forced. My parents and family were always supportive for my sisters and I to pursue what made us happy, and ultimately after playing semi-pro baseball, coaching, and other jobs, I felt like this was something I wanted to try. And in the end, I’m really glad I’m doing what I do because I absolutely love it!
How did you become involved as a team physician for USA Hockey and U.S. Soccer?
AG: Part of this is being okay with failure and rejection. I remember going to a hockey conference in Toronto and meeting USA Hockey’s chief medical officer, Dr. Michael Stuart. I presented him with my information, and he looked at it and said that I had the pedigree but there wasn’t room for me. I told him, “no problem, just don’t forget about me,” and it wasn’t until two years later that I finally got my opportunity. I spoke about that in my lecture at the CMS Annual Meeting last month! As for U.S. Soccer, a lot of it was similar persistence and being in the right place at the right time. That opportunity came from just saying yes to an opportunity and seeing what came about. There are a lot of people supporting me and putting me up to be in these types of positions.
Can you share a story of a patient that has really stuck with you?
AG: We recently had a 29-year-old active male who came into our office limping with a cane. He had seen four other providers that were unable to give him a diagnosis, because I feel like they truly just didn’t listen to him. We ended up doing a dynamic ultrasound to show a plantar plate tear in his foot that was missed on MRI. We subsequently did PRP injections, and on his six-week post procedure visit, he was able to walk without any assistance for the first time in a year. He and I were just walking back and forth on our synthetic turf in the office, just smiling, and that was a pretty rewarding morning.
What advice do you have for physicians-in-training (students and residents)?
AG: Don’t do it! Kidding. First thing is, take it six months at a time. If you look at the entire process and totality, you’ll go crazy. Second, you’d better be doing it for your reasons and nobody else’s. A therapist told me one time you have to give yourself permission to live your life. It’s a pretty freeing and empowering statement!
What do you enjoy doing outside of medicine?
AG: I enjoy all kinds of things related to interacting with people and building relationships. I’m usually up to do a lot of different things be it physical or mental. For example, just recently I learned how to wake surf and felt the sensation of riding a wave for the first time in my life. That was an absolutely tremendous feeling. Other than that, I love playing hockey, playing golf and spending time with my family!
You work with your significant other; how do your skills complement each other in a profession that can be very stressful?
AG: Anytime you work with a significant other it’s stressful! But I think the key is being able to play on the strengths of each other and having dedicated time to devote to your relationship outside of work. I feel like we’ve been really lucky to be on this journey together and continue to have fun doing it! Thanks, Nicole!