As a certified hockey trainer and team physician, Dr. Robert Black sometimes finds himself behind enemy lines.
The surgeon humorously tells of a time when he helped the captain of an opposing team with a dislocated shoulder; only to have him return to the ice against medical advice to score the game-winning goal.
“My benevolent intervention led to the demise of our playoffs,” he said with a chuckle.
Despite the unlucky loss, the story is an example of the community care Dr. Black delivers in addition to his surgical duties at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH).
“Community is at the core of being a physician,” he said. “You can’t turn off our skill set when you’re out at hockey practices or in line for Tim Horton’s.”
Dr. Black is the regional academic director for Elgin-Middlesex, part of Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s Distributed Education program. He is also one of several St. Thomas-based physicians taking an active role in local minor hockey leagues.
His 13-year involvement with the sport started when his oldest son began playing hockey at age seven. Over the seasons, he has volunteered for a number of teams, following his three children as they advanced through various levels.
As the current team physician for the St. Thomas Stars Jr. B Club, Dr. Black assesses injured players, sutures lacerations, reduces dislocations and refers players in need of additional care.
Realizing the importance of this role, Dr. Black achieved official trainer certification. He also completed a special course on automated external defibrillators (AEDs), in case of cardiac emergencies at the hockey arenas he frequents.
He says the extra training, hours at the rink and road trips with the team are a worthwhile endeavour.
“I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn the art of medicine, and I’m very proud to use it every day, even when I’m not in the hospital,” he said. “It truly is a gift and I feel very fortunate to be able to help and give back to the community.”
Giving back is a philosophy that Dr. James Menlove, a physician in the Emergency and Anaesthesia departments at STEGH and adjunct professor with Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, also values.
“For me, it’s important to live in the community where I practice,” he said. “My life isn’t just about medicine, it’s also about being embedded in the local community.”
Dr. Menlove coaches a house league team with the St. Thomas Minor Hockey Association and acts as trainer for one of St. Thomas Junior Star’s Tyke Travel teams.
As a father of three boys, physical well-being isn’t his only priority in these roles. “My job is not only for injuries, but it's also for the kids' mental health,” he explained. “As parents, coaches and trainers, our job is to cheer on our kids and be role models.”