In November, during Special Olympics Wisconsin’s Northern Fall Sports Tournament, 53 athletes received a free sports physical as part of the seventh annual MedFest.

Medical volunteers from Ascension in north central Wisconsin teamed with Medical College of Wisconsin students and other volunteers to form a team of nearly 30 medical professionals provide this free health screening. The 53 athletes served were the most ever for the Medfest event in north central Wisconsin.

After an initial check-in and review of medical history, medical students and fellow healthcare volunteers obtained vitals along with near and far vision screening.  Then the medical students perform a sport physical exam in conjunction with physicians and physician assistants. In addition, each athlete received dental screening and education by members of the Special Olympics-WI Special Smile program.

Individuals  with intellectual disabilities often face a myriad of barriers to receiving adequate health care, including financial or insurance concerns, difficulties with transportation, and finding healthcare providers who are able to cater to his or her specific needs.

MedFest screenings throughout the US have also found that a large percentage of Special Olympics athletes have significant secondary health concerns. Unfortunately medications commonly taken by people with intellectual disabilities are often associated with long-term side effects such as osteoporosis, weight gain, and sun sensitivity.

Seven years ago, Ascension partnered with Special Olympics Wisconsin’s Healthy Athletes program, and the organization supports MedFest through volunteer recruitment, supplies and extending provider insurance to the event. More than 250 athletes have now received a sports physical thanks to MedFest.

A driving force behind the event is Dr. Michael Clark, an Emergency Medicine Physician at Ascension St. Clare’s Hospital and Medical Director for Special Olympics Wisconsin. Dr. Clark generously donates his time to organize MedFest and had seen the first-hand impact the screenings have on athletes, as well as the success of the overall event.

“Not only do athletes receive great care during the event, but the volunteers are also able to learn valuable lessons on how to further work with individuals with intellectual disabilities,” said Dr. Clark.

For volunteers, this means a unique hands-on service learning opportunity and a day of also making new friends. Medical students from the Medical College of Wisconsin came out for the event to donate their time and energy to the day and to get them ready for their future careers.

The 2018 MedFest in north central Wisconsin is scheduled for October 27 at Dale’s Weston Lanes.