St.Vincent Sport Performance’s own Dr. Joel Kary was featured in the Indianapolis Star’s Rising Star column. Read Dr. Kary’s interview with Jill Phillips.
Dr. Joel Kary isn’t a stranger to sports. A runner, he participated in cross-country in college and is training for a triathlon.
Kary tore a meniscus his freshman year of high school, causing him to need arthroscopic knee surgery. That experience helps him better understand his patients.
“My patients see that I am actually out there doing the things they are doing, trying to get in workouts every day, and can understand what they are talking about,” said the sports medicine physician at St.Vincent Sports Performance. “It helps them trust me.”
Prior to entering medical school at Southern Illinois University, he worked as a certified athletic trainer. The summer following his junior year of college, he worked with a physician who encouraged him to pursue medical school.
“I then squeezed all my medical school prerequisites into my last year of college,” he said. “The year after college, I took the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), applied/interviewed at medical schools, and audited a college course in biochemistry … all while working in a doctor’s office as a certified athletic trainer.”
Kary is also the team physician for Butler University Athletics and Roncalli High School and a consultant for USA Track & Field. He joined Butler the same year as head basketball coach Brad Stevens.
“I love working with athletes who are motivated to get better and reach their highest potential,” he said.
How did you manage to stand out in a crowd and advance quickly in your career?
It’s having passion for what I do. I think if you have a passion and enjoy what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. Since I decided this was the route I wanted to go, I have always looked for volunteer opportunities and the chance to work with people I admired in the profession. I have always had a passion for wanting to help people and help athletes reach their potential. I think success also comes from treating people the way I want to be treated.
What was your first job or entrepreneurial experience? How did it impact your future?
I grew up in central Illinois and in the summers would walk beans. Before there were a lot of fertilizers available, farmers would hire people to walk through the fields and pull weeds. That was called “walking beans.” We would use these tools with a hook on the end to pull the weeds.
That job taught me hard work and persistence. You get used to hard work and discover your body is capable of doing more than you thought it was.
What’s the toughest mistake you ever made, and what did you learn from it?
Hard to come up with a mistake per se. I regret that in high school I didn’t apply myself more when it came to schoolwork. I was active in student government, drama and sports, and I know I wasn’t living up to my potential as a student. It wasn’t until college that I figured out that I had to study. I learned that studying and working hard would open up doors and allow me to succeed.
How important is it to have a mentor? Did anyone in particular help you advance in your career?
I’ve had several. I don’t think you can come through medicine without having many mentors. Lots of people have helped guide me, but I don’t know if I can name just one.
In medical school, I did a sports medicine rotation. This was the first time I got a sense that this specialty was something I really wanted to do. A physician I worked with gave me opportunities to enhance my skills and learn. He also would ask me to help him write papers. In the end, the experience gave me something to put on my resume.
What advice would you give to other young people trying to get started in sports medicine?
It’s a broad field. There’s athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, etc. Realize there are lots of ways to utilize your talents. We are all trying to help athletes be the best they want to be.
Realize there is a lot of different ways to get involved. Find what your passion is about. Get revved up about the field you want to pursue. Never stop learning. Look for challenges and try to best help your patients. If you are a lifelong learner to do a better job, sports medicine would be a great field. Have a real interest in sports. It will endear you to your patients, know you understand them and will make you a better sports medicine physician, trainer or therapist.