Editor’s note: As part of National Volunteer Week, WeAreSOSC.org will highlight a handful of volunteers who have made a difference in the lives of Special Olympics Southern California athletes. Today, we are featuring Kaiser Permanente.
It’s only fitting healthcare professionals continue to be praised for their work during these times, right?
Since April 2018, Kaiser Permanente Southern California has been the official health partner for Special Olympics Southern California. As part of a three-year agreement, approximately 40 Southern California Permanente Medical Group physicians and support staff volunteer year-round at SOSC competitions.
The medical team also assists with Healthy Athletes, which provides free health screenings to SOSC athletes during competitions. Their services help ensure SOSC athletes are cleared to compete and receive assistance with audiology, dentistry, health and well-being, physical therapy, podiatry, and vision.
In other words, anything from checking on an athlete who takes a fall to providing the proper eyewear is within Kaiser Permanente’s service to SOSC athletes.
The group of professionals is led by Aaron Rubin MD, the appointed chief medical officer for SOSC, who also served as medical director when the 2015 Special Olympics World Games were hosted in Los Angeles.
“We’re about a lot of the same things Special Olympics is about: inclusiveness, diversity, and taking care of people,” Rubin said at the 2018 Fall Games.
“The athletes appreciate everything done for them, from putting a Band-Aid on to some more serious injuries we can deal with. They’re just great. The physicians love seeing the athletes and the athletes get along really well with our staff.”
The importance of health goes beyond sports, too, said Dr. Ramin Zolfagari, who works with Kaiser Permanente Orange County and serves on SOSC’s Board of Directors.
Better healthcare increases the likelihood of opportunities in education and employment to become contributing members to society.
“A lot of [people with ID] can be part of part of our community in many, many ways,” Zolfagari said. “Being part of Special Olympics, they find that path and gain confidence in life.
“I’m extremely grateful I could be part of this movement.”
We can’t wait until Kaiser Permanente’s medical professionals are back, roaming the sidelines for SOSC athletes once again.