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Igniting passions one resident at a time.

Look out among the white tents in Arlington National Cemetery near the finish of the Marine Corps Marathon[R], and you might see a group of residents scurrying about caring for patients who have collapsed from heat illness, hyperthermia or a host of other ailments. Nearby, odds are good you'll also catch a glimpse of Robert Fawcett, M.D., medical director of the Thomas Hart Family Practice Center and assistant director of the York Health System Family Practice Residency Program in York, Pennsylvania. That's because since 1999, Dr. Fawcett has been bringing residents to attend lectures at the AMAA Sports Medicine Symposium at the Marine Corps Marathon, where they then volunteer in the tents at the start and finish, applying many of the principles they've learned attending the talks.

It's both a charitable and a highly sensible idea, a pure manifestation of Fawcett's two greater goals: to teach medicine, and to inspire his students to learn it any way they can. While doctors receive CME credit to attend these lectures, the residents' attendance is purely voluntary. That doesn't diminish their enthusiasm for it, a fact that must in part be attributed to Dr. Fawcett's own passion for medicine.


Fawcett, who is 54, was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on New Year's Day 1949 and shortly thereafter, it seems, decided on his eventual profession. "We had the World Book Encyclopedia, with those cool overlays of the human body," he says, "and from then on I knew I wanted to be a doctor."

After completing his own residency in Muncie, Indiana, he took a year off and indulged his other passion by sailing through the Bahamas with his wife, Christy, a federal prosecutor who was then in law school. Penniless at the end of that dream voyage, Fawcett wound up in Hanover, Pennsylvania, where his brother lived. He stayed on there some 19 years, eventually opening a private family medical practice that included sports medicine. Just 20 miles away, his professional life in York lay in wait.

Today Fawcett sees patients two and a half days a week, with the bulk of his time spent teaching. He is busy full-time helping to supervise his 24 residents as they care for patients in the family practice center at York Hospital. In addition, Fawcett is the sports medicine coordinator for the family practice residency program, which serves as the "team doctor" for one local high school, York Technical Institute, and administers pre-participation physical examinations to students from others.

Dr. Fawcett still sails; his boat Fidelio, named after Beethoven's only opera, presently sits on the Chesapeake. He is a "strictly recreational" runner who reports simply that he "eats to run and runs to eat." But probe a bit further and the teacher within emerges: "Well, a family doctor needs to use all the tools at his disposal to stimulate patients to be healthy," he offers. "One tool he has is to set a good example."

Fawcett's 22-year-old daughter, Julia, completed the Boston Marathon last year and finds running a required respite from her studies as a senior at Harvard. His 20-year-old daughter, Claire, runs competitively on the cross country and track teams at Haverford College.

To the 4- and 5-hour finishers who enter the medical tents at the Marine Corps Marathon, Dr. Fawcett's students are an invaluable asset. "The longer they're out there, the sicker they tend to be," he says. He offers one anecdote of a man who collapsed on the course and was brought to Fawcett among the white tents near the Iwo Jima Memorial in the cemetery. "We asked him if he knew where he was, and he said, 'Yes ... I'm in Arlington Cemetery and everything is white.'"

Dr. Fawcett sees his efforts in the tents at the marathon as a natural extension of his teaching. He praises his residents for volunteering their time and acquiring more hands-on experience along the way. And he has only positive things to say about AMAA, the organizing body of the conference and the volunteer doctors, which he feels has provided him with a tremendous opportunity. "AMAA runs great conferences; they are very accommodating and welcoming. Plus, to see sports medicine cardiologists go at each other tooth and nail is just priceless." His good humor and genuine enthusiasm are never far away from one another.

"Someone once said that education isn't filling up a pail, it's building a fire," says this very dedicated educator. "I see the AMAA meetings as a way to help light a few fires."

Jeff Venables is the editor of Running & FitNews, the publication of the American Running Association.
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Title Annotation:Member Profile; Robert Fawcett, M.D.
Author:Venables, Jeff
Publication:AMAA Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2003
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