Colorado Springs primary care, sports medicine physician inspires through wisdom and caring
John P. Reasoner Jr, MD, is a recently retired physician in Colorado Springs. He specialized in family medicine and sports medicine, and his service to the military and the U.S. Olympic Committee has taken him around the world to interact with individuals in peak levels of training and performance. He thanks his wife, Lorrie, for her support through his medical training, 20 years of the military, being involved with the USOC, and raising their children. He is working on rediscovering hobbies he had earlier in his life like reading, sports card collecting and gardening, and he aims to dedicate his time and abilities in retirement to stay within medicine, help others and share his wisdom with other individuals as a mentor or motivator.
1. Who or what inspired you to become a physician?
It was a biology teacher in high school, how he presented the course and the reason he went into science – to make a difference in the world. He simply inspired me. Years later I contacted him and let him know the impact he had on my life.
2. Tell us about your early life and medical training.
I’m from New Haven, Conn. My mother was a nurse’s aide and my father worked in a factory. We lived in a four-room apartment with my grandmother, who was a housekeeper. Unfortunately, my father had a stroke at age 42 and passed away when I was 12. There were opportunities at the time that allowed me as a low-income minority to get into a private school. I ended up going to a boarding school away from the tougher areas of the city where I lived and then from there was able to get into Brown University’s seven-year medical program.
While in medical school, I was married and joined the Army through its Health Professions Scholarship Program. I started active duty in 1980 at Fort Belvoir, training in family practice and later becoming a flight surgeon. The U.S. Army started a sports medicine fellowship in 1985 and I was fortunate to become the Army’s very first primary care sports medicine fellow. In caring for active duty soldiers who trained like dedicated athletes, one had to know a great deal about musculoskeletal injuries. That experience with being a former athlete in high school and college motivated me into the field of sports medicine. I went to Duke University where the Army allowed me to go, and take a year to train in their orthopedic department.
3. How did you get involved with the U.S. Olympic Committee?
While at Duke, I met an orthopedist who was the head physician with U.S. Boxing. He told me about the USOC’s medical program that allows physicians to apply to volunteer, then enter a tiered system where you rise through the ranks to participate in the various levels of national and international competition, festivals, World Games, Pan-Am Games and eventually Olympic Games. I was fortunate enough to go to the Barcelona Summer Olympics in 1992, right after the Gulf War. From there I was selected for my next volunteer role as a head physician for the Pan-Am Games in Argentina in 1995 and later for the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens. Being in the military had allowed me to be able to apply for TDYs [temporary duty] to participate, where if I had been in private practice I would not have been able to afford the time away.
4. How was your experience caring for these elite athletes?
What I found during my time with the USOC was that the preparation for the games was very similar to our military preparation: The logistics of moving men and materials, making sure you have the right people, the right amount of people and supplies. There was an individual who was the chief medical coordinator, then the overall International Games coordinator, Doug Ingram, who was like the general. We had daily meetings, problem solved. There was great teamwork and incredible unity, an esprit de corps. It felt as though I was serving my country twice.
Several years later in 2007, being hired on to the staff of the USOC was such a privilege and honor to work with these top athletes. I had been brought on to change and to integrate the health provider structure from solely athletic trainers to a diverse scope of trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists along with a corps of local, volunteer physicians at each training center who worked very closely with our exercise scientists, sports psychologists and coaches. A great deal of education and comradery took place in our morning reports and weekly meetings. Having rotating, volunteer providers from colleges, high schools, and professional sports from all corners of the U.S. lent for a great teaching and learning environment.
These superb athletes taught me so much through their experiences -- training physically and preparing mentally for the Games. I realized that, again, you are treating the most elite athletes in the world. There are some who are always in the limelight: the stars in tennis or soccer. Then there are those who have dedicated their lives from when they were children or teenagers until they’re in their 30s to a sport that was only really noticed in the highlights of the Olympic Games coverage every four years. They are not motivated by money or fame; they were motivated by competition and sportsmanship.
I was also able to care for these incredible human beings who were physically disabled in the Paralympic Games. Seeing someone with no legs or one arm tear across a swimming pool, that really strikes home in terms of your ability to appreciate what it takes for them to be able to mentally and physically reach the point to compete.
5: How did you get involved in the El Paso County Medical Society?
I became involved when I came to Colorado Springs in 1993 and was stationed at Fort Carson. At that time, to be credentialed in the city you had to go through the medical society. They had a committee for sports medicine; that was my initial involvement. As time went on and after my military retirement in 2000, I became involved in other organizations in the Colorado Springs community through Leadership Pikes Peak and The El Pomar Foundation, which had community activities and training programs to get concerned citizens and minorities involved in boards and volunteerism.
I joined the EPCMS Board of Directors at the encouragement of a close friend who was on the board, Tanweer Khan, MD, a radiologist. Since I was fortunate enough to have had this training through El Pomar, I felt comfortable coming onto the board in 2010. In 2012, I became the president-elect and was president in 2013. The experience was eye-opening in understanding the dynamics of the local medical community from the large hospital organizations, to medical groups and solo practices, to the influence of insurances, technology and medical supply companies leveraging the core of everyday medical practice. It made me realize that a strong local medical association can support the practitioners and patients in the community.
6. What advice would you give someone in training or early in their medical career?
I would tell other physicians to keep your mind open to all the possibilities and avenues that medicine allows you to enter. Be it clinical when you’re taking care of a patient and you’re managing a person day to day, to the research aspect where you get involved with discovering something or adding to the knowledge base, to the military that allowed me to explore many opportunities, which I did, to administration that allows you to look at what you can do for a population as a whole. As an administrator, sometimes one has to make tough decisions in terms of your budget, your personnel, your staff, the political situation, from a microcosm to a macrocosm. You look at how you can ethically benefit a whole population under your influence. That is very satisfying in medicine for some people; it was for me.
Always keep your mind open to many possibilities especially as your career and life develop, because as time goes, our tastes and our desires change and that’s very important to understand. You’re not jammed into a corner. Many physicians get burned out with the demands of workload, insurance, budget, etc. You just need to find a way to reinvent yourself and find a new avenue through which you can dedicate yourself with the same vigor, passion and results of helping others along the way. And when you retire, retire from work, not from life.
The Colorado Medical Society's monthly member spotlight series offers CMS members the opportunity to share their passions and wisdom from medicine and life in general, and allows the medical society to highlight members from around the state. All CMS members are eligible to be featured; contact firstname.lastname@example.org to self-nominate or to nominate one of your colleagues. It takes as little as 20 minutes of your time!