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Sochi chief medical officer: 'An unbelievable honor'

By Dr. Gloria Beim, Special to CNN
updated 11:30 AM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
Sidney Crosby celebrates after scoring Canada's second goal during the men's ice hockey gold medal match against Sweden on Sunday, February 23. Most of us know the Winter Olympics through the power of television, as a spectacle in constant motion. Seeing the Games through still photography is a different experience altogether. Here's a look at the most compelling images from the word's best photographers at Sochi 2014. | <i>More photos:</i> <i><a href='http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/08/worldsport/gallery/falling-down-in-sochi/index.html'>Falling down in Sochi </a></i> Sidney Crosby celebrates after scoring Canada's second goal during the men's ice hockey gold medal match against Sweden on Sunday, February 23. Most of us know the Winter Olympics through the power of television, as a spectacle in constant motion. Seeing the Games through still photography is a different experience altogether. Here's a look at the most compelling images from the word's best photographers at Sochi 2014. | More photos: Falling down in Sochi
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dr. Gloria Beim was the chief medical officer for the U.S. Olympic Team
  • Beim decided to study orthopedic surgery after an injury at 16
  • She began learning Russian in the weeks leading up to the Games

Editor's note: Dr. Gloria Beim was the chief medical officer for the U.S. Olympic Team during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

(CNN) -- I was so excited to be selected as the chief medical officer for the U.S. Olympic Team in Sochi, Russia.

It was an unbelievable honor to be trusted with the care of our Olympic athletes. I will never forget the moment I received the call from Dr. Bill Moreau, medical director of the U.S. Olympic Committee, letting me know that I'd been chosen. While I feel like my entire career has been leading up to that moment, it still came as a great surprise.

I decided to study orthopedic surgery because of an injury I sustained when I was 16. An athlete myself, I have always been drawn to working with athletes. I love and admire their competitive spirit.

I practice in Crested Butte and Gunnison, Colorado. For several years, I've served as team physician for many sports including football, wrestling, track, basketball, volleyball and skiing at our local university, Western State Colorado University. I've served as team physician for the U.S. Track Cycling Team in at least a dozen Track Cycling World Championships.

Dr. Gloria Beim
Dr. Gloria Beim

And this wasn't my first Olympic experience. I was part of the medical team during the Athens and London Olympics, and have worked for world championships, World University Games and the Pan American Games. Over my career, I've worked with skiers, cyclists, ballet dancers, Taekwondo competitors and more.

If there is a sports injury to be had, it's likely I've seen it, or a close approximation. And that is, I believe, one of the reasons I was fortunate enough to be selected to lead the Sochi medical team. I've always been curious and eager to increase my knowledge, education and experience in any way possible.

Of course as CMO, I am only one of many providing medical care to the U.S. Olympic Team. In Sochi, I worked with Moreau and a team of more than 70 staff members to coordinate and deliver care to the athletes. We had thre clinics on site, and were responsible for 230 U.S. athletes.

We treated sprains, sniffles and sore throats, and while it was inevitable that we deal with injuries, I had my fingers crossed I wouldn't have to exercise my capabilities for anything serious.

The months leading to my departure were packed. I made the trek across the mountains to the U.S. Olympic Center in Colorado Springs for training and preparation several times before I left for Sochi. In preparation for our journey, we secured equipment, medications and supplies, and supervised the shipment to Sochi.

Our pre-games homework included ensuring that every one of the health care providers -- athletic trainers, physicians, sports chiropractors, massage therapists and physical therapists -- had the appropriate licenses and insurance to participate. As you might imagine, there was a lot of paperwork to make sure everyone could legally practice medicine in Russia.

There was a lot to prepare for, and part of my job was to help the volunteer medical staff understand what to expect in an unusual situation -- practicing medicine in another country and being in the fast-paced Olympic environment. Another of our pre-games activities was hosting a Webinar with information on what to expect in Sochi, including the hours our medical staff were required to work, what the living quarters were like, doping controls and other logistics.

As soon as I found out about my appointment, I also began learning Russian. It has been a blast, and I knew it would help me ensure the best medical care for our athletes. I also believe that my Russian colleagues appreciated me trying to speak to them in their own language.

Part of the fun of being involved in the Olympics is learning new things and seeing new places, and I wanted to get all I could out of the experience. I knew communicating to our generous hosts in their native tongue would help.

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