Olympian MD Raises the Bar: Louise Walker, BSc’72, MD’77
How did you manage to meet the demands of medical education and pursue elite sports?
Basically I worked, trained, ate and slept. While I didn’t have much of a social life at U of T, I did participate in basketball, field hockey, and volleyball — we had a great women’s sports club during medical school and I had lots of fun with that group. I met my husband at the ’72 Olympics in Munich, and he went to another medical school, which was convenient because we only socialized every other weekend.
During my clerkship I had to take the summer of ’75 off in order to train for the Montreal games of ’76. To accommodate that, the then Associate Dean Student Affairs Dr. Llewellyn-Thomas said I would have to withdraw and reapply. I was reassured I would get back in, but it was a nerve-wracking experience. I still have that letter of resignation in my files.
What is your fondest memory of your Olympic experiences?
Meeting my husband in 1972. I was starting med school right after the Olympics that September, and was actually a week late. I first saw him from the staging area, we met in the village at Munich and we bonded on the flight home to Canada. When his connecting flight out of Montreal was cancelled, he carried my suitcase out to my mother’s car for me and she offered to have him stay overnight as well. The friendship developed from there.
What’s the best part of your job in sports medicine?
I love taking care of people who are interested in being physically active. It’s a joy to work with a population that understands how exercise is medicine. I don’t do purely sports medicine, but it makes me see the potential that’s there if our policies, both social and political, were to support the premise that exercise is not only fun but can also prevent and treat illness. I think this would go a long way in reducing health-care costs, creating a healthier society, decreasing the burden of illness on society, and keeping people out of nursing homes. It’s a win-win. But there are barriers. I’m a firm believer that if you haven’t been exposed to quality exercise and the joy of exercise while growing up, it’s very hard to turn on the switch later in life.
What is the accomplishment you’re most proud of?
Raising a family — that always trumps work. I have two wonderful children and a wonderful husband. I am also proud of my work with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES). I am quite passionate about the idea of “True Sport” — which means we must prevent the athletes from wanting to use drugs as much as we aim to catch the cheaters. It’s about advocacy and championing values in communities. The CCES is not just an anti-doping association, but it also promotes ethical sport as a whole.
What Words of Wisdom do you have for current U of T medical students?
In my teaching of the musculoskeletal curriculum to family medicine residents at the University of Ottawa, I encourage students to keep open minds, to think broadly, to think outside of the box. You will enjoy your career more if you remain open to new ideas, new diagnoses, and if you keep reading.
What kind of opportunities did U of T offer you while you were a student?
It offered a top-notch medical experience and really promoted excellence. I was really proud to be a student at U of T and it offered me the opportunity to pursue track and field at the same time.