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Toby's Take: Chief Concern: The Patient

Photo of our employees wearing Chiefs gear

February 15, 2023

Pitchers and catchers report to baseball Spring Training this week. That usually happens around Valentine’s Day. It’s such a romantic time for the world’s best sport.

You can fight me on that, and there’s no denying Kansas City and all of Chiefs Kingdom have been feeling and giving the love to a team who is in rarefied air, winning 5 straight AFC Championships and going to 3 Big Games in 4 years.

Good thing The University of Kansas Health System is the official healthcare provider of both the Chiefs and the Royals. We don’t have a preference between football and baseball when we treat these athletes. “Patient first,” our Chief concern always. Or we treat you like Royalty if you prefer. (You might with baseball being the greatest sport ever.)

But c’mon. 3 Big Games in 4 years?

An insider’s view

“I hope the fans appreciate that it's not easy. You know it helps when you have maybe the most special player who’s played the game,” said JP Darche, MD, one of 6 team docs from the health system who looked after Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs again in 2022-23. He’s a former player himself.

“I can tell you this. From the time the couple of years I played with the Chiefs in 2007 and 2008, it was a drastically different level of success. I mean, wow, talk about contrast.”

Dr. Darche lettered at his high school in Montreal, Canada, played linebacker in college and the Canadian Football League and eventually ended up a long snapper in the NFL. He played for the Seattle Seahawks when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2005 Big Game.

Of the 6, Darche is 1 of 3 medical physicians working alongside 3 ortho docs.

I’ve gotten to know Jean-Philippe Darche and his wonderful French-Canadian accent since he’s become my primary care physician. He’s gotten to know my osteoarthritic knee. My knee and Patrick Mahomes’ ankle, maybe in the same day!

We’ve got an extra MRI right in the back of our clinic at Arrowhead ... So somebody gets injured on the practice field, they come right down the hall, they get in. We're able to take care of them quickly but also maintain our normal clinic workflow. Paul Schroeppel, MD

Head team orthopedist for the Kansas City Chiefs

You get the same expert care

This is what makes our relationships with sports teams special. The very physicians who care for athletes you know spend much more time on “average” patients like you and me, including care provided at a permanent location at Arrowhead Stadium.

“It allows us to keep a busy clinic and see all those folks but still be accessible and be able to provide rapid, accessible care to the players,” said Paul Schroeppel, MD, chair of the health system’s orthopedic surgery and sports medicine team. He’s the head orthopedic surgeon for the Chiefs.

“We’ve got an extra MRI right in the back of our clinic at Arrowhead. So somebody gets injured on the practice field, they come right down the hall, they get in. We're able to take care of them quickly but also maintain our normal clinic workflow.”

Yes, Dr. Schroeppel said patients do occasionally catch a glimpse of a player and get a kick out of it.

Providing additional types of care

There are several other folks who work Chiefs games, but not only for the Chiefs. Health system emergency medicine physician Dennis Allin, MD, serves 3 roles: He’s the visiting team’s liaison to make sure they are taken care of from when their plane touches down in Kansas City to when it leaves. He’s a league airway-management physician charged with the responsibility of resuscitation and has answered plenty of questions about when Buffalo Bills’ player Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field and went into cardiac arrest.

“This has been just an amazing ride for an old Chiefs fan from when I was a boy,” Dr. Allin said.

He tells the story of his father and his brother when the then-American Football League-champion Chiefs had just been matched up to play with the National Football League-crowned Green Bay Packers.

“One of the things he lamented to my brother and me, he says, ‘I was this close to taking you guys to Big Game I, and I thought this game is never going to be a big deal.’ So good call, Dad. Good call.”

Dr. Darche interjected, “I hope you didn't take his stock advice.”

They’re going to miss that interaction. With each other, the players, the coaches and staff of the best football team in the NFL this past half-decade. They won’t have to miss interaction with a full slate of patients. That continues year-round. It also includes when pitchers, catchers and all the Royals train in Arizona and head home for the greatest game on Earth.

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