Chicago Blackhawks physician credits success to foundation in ME
“I had a job at Motorola, and I was going to go for an MBA and a master’s in engineering,” Terry said. “Everything was pushing me to engineering.”
As an undergraduate, Terry had decided to minor in bioengineering to satisfy some extra credit hours. In one of his BioE classes, he had a chance to connect with an emergency room doctor. He liked the work the doctor was doing and decided to take the MCAT just to see what would happen. When he got a good score, he thought he might as well apply to medical school.
“Once I got into medical school and I looked at job offers in engineering, I had a tough decision to make,” Terry said.
Although engineering seemed the obvious choice at the time, Terry elected to pursue medical school at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.
“The interaction with people and the ability to make a palpable difference in people’s lives was the draw that really instructed my decision,” Terry said. “I feel like changing your mind once you’ve got plans set is always a little scary and a bit of a leap of faith, but I’m glad I did it.”
Terry’s work these days is three-fold: he is a team physician for Northwestern University’s varsity athletics programs as well as for the United States Men’s National Volleyball team, and is the head team physician for the Chicago Blackhawks.
“I went to medical school with an engineer’s mind and orthopedics was a very clear draw for me because of all the mechanics involved,” Terry said. After finishing his fellowship in orthopedic sports medicine at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic, he began working for the national volleyball team. A year later, in 2005, the Blackhawks were searching for a new team physician. Terry got a call and was selected after a short interview process.
As Head Physician, Terry travels to the Blackhawks’ games and is present at their practices. Over the years, the games and practices have run the spectrum from being injury-free to major injuries occurring, sometimes with players rendered unconscious. On one occasion during a practice, a player cut his jugular vein and lost a lot of blood before he could be treated. He recovered, but the episode was scarier than most laceration-related injuries.
“The lacerations are pretty dramatic, but the head and neck injuries are the ones that I think scare us the most,” Terry said.
Nonetheless, Terry loves what he does. He credits his engineering background with giving him a leg up in his work as a surgeon. While medical school gave him the wealth of knowledge he would need in order to be a physician, mechanical engineering taught him how to think and challenged him to problem-solve.
“I think (engineering) was a foundation for me that can’t be beat,” Terry said. “I think that the way that we learn to think as mechanical engineers provides us with such an advantage over some of our colleagues.”
For students considering going into medical school, Terry suggests getting familiar early on with admission requirements, and spending time with a doctor to become more familiar with actual medical practice.
“If you’re worried that you don’t have the same GPA as some of the pre-med students, I wouldn’t let that dissuade you,” Terry said. Having served on the admissions committee for Pritzker, he said admissions committees know that engineers are graded differently and will take that into account.
“I’ve always told people that engineering at the University of Illinois was more challenging and thought-provoking than medical school.”