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Archives: Medical Director Achieves Olympic Dream

Runners at Saturday’s PNC Women Run the Cities presented by TRIA will be in good hands race morning: Dr. Heather Cichanowski – skier, paddler, physician, Team USA doctor, and medical director of Women’s Sports Medicine at TRIA – will lead the event’s TRIA-powered medical team.

And she’s excited to be there.

“I think it's very inspiring to see so many people, and in this particular race, so many women from all walks of life out there achieving their goals and most importantly having fun,” the Winona native told the Connection. “And so that's what I really like to see. Some of the smiles you see going across the finish line are just awesome.”


“Of course, we are there to treat someone who is injured or hurt,” she noted, “but really, it’s about being there to support them and help them. It can be as simple as a blister or as complex as heat illness, in the end being there is about making sure that the environment is safe for everyone.”

A former competitive canoe racer (her father is the founder and owner of We-No-Nah Canoe) who continues to participate in cross country ski events, Dr. Cichanowski knows sports medicine from both sides of the term.


“When I was younger, I was always interested in first aid and physiology and anatomy,” she remembered. “I was always curious and wanting to know more about how the body worked and how it functioned. And so that, coupled with my sporting background, and those inevitable injuries while I was competing, made primary care sports medicine a great fit.”

And working the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team physician – a gig that took her to the Beijing Games earlier this year – came naturally, too.

“Once I was a sports medicine physician, I always had interest in wanting to be one of the physicians with the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team, so those two things are very, very tied together,” she said. “When you were a little girl, you dream of going to the Olympics someday and, well, it finally happened. You know, maybe in a different way than what I was thinking when I was six years old, but awesome, nonetheless.”

Dr. Cichanowski lead’s TRIA’s pioneering Women’s Sport Medicine program which provides female-focused care for active girls and women of all ages and all abilities.

“This team understands how anatomy, menstrual history, exercise habits, pregnancy history, and nutritional needs impact the female body and the likelihood of certain injuries and how you recover from those injuries,” she noted. “What makes this program unique is that we're looking at the bigger picture realizing that there are factors unique to female physiology that contribute to injuries and recovery.”

“The amount of sports medicine research done on women is so little as compared to men,” Dr, Cichanowski added. “Now on the bright side, this is starting to change. So, there's a lot more focus now on female-specific sports medicine research, which is great, but of course it's going to take some time for that research work to catch up, but it is coming.”

On Saturday, with Dr. Cichanowski's background and expertise, runners can expect great support from her and the TRIA team – whether at the medical tent or as they cheer for runners at the finish line.

Photo: Dr. Cichanowski at the Beijing Games.

This article originally appeared in the TCM's weekly e-newsletter, The Connection, in 2022. Subscribe to the Connection here.


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