Jack Taunton is responsible for basic and emergency health and doping control for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games - photo by Martin Dee
UBC Reports | Vol. 54 | No. 7 | Jul. 3, 2008
Sports Doc Has a Dream Come True
By Basil Waugh
A ski jumper lands wrong and breaks her spine. Food poisoning takes out a bobsled team. A skate blade clips a speed skater and blood gushes onto the ice.
These are just some of the nightmare scenarios that UBC’s Jack Taunton is busy preparing for as VANOC’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for the 2010 Winter Games. Responsible for basic and emergency health care and doping control for 2010, Taunton will be in Beijing this summer monitoring medical programs for the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“For a sports physician, being CMO for 2010 is a dream come true,” says Taunton, who is assembling a team of 2,700 medical volunteers to care for the more than 1.5 million spectators, media, volunteers and athletes expected to attend. “It doesn’t get any better than the biggest international sporting event in your city and country.”
“We are working to make these the safest, healthiest games ever,” says Taunton, who co-founded both Vancouver’s Sun Run and UBC’s Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Clinic. “We want our games drug-free, tobacco-free and -- an Olympic first -- transfat-free,” he says. VANOC medical partners include B.C.’s Ministry of Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and the IOC.
Taunton will celebrate his upcoming 61st birthday by running his 61st marathon. Despite being the picture of health, he is lucky to be alive. Shortly before the 2000 Sydney Games, where he was CMO for the Canadian Olympic team, he underwent surgery for a quadruple bypass heart attack.
“I have been given a second chance,” says Taunton, who was attracted to medicine after suffering from polio as child and a severe car accident as a teen. “I’m cherishing my family, my team, and the challenge of preparing for 2010.”
With VANOC vowing that the games will not materially impact B.C.’s health care system, and little existing medical infrastructure in Whistler, the massive undertaking is well underway.
“There were 1,200 people hospitalized in the Torino Winter Olympics,” says Taunton, who was born in Montreal. “Athletes represented only 15 per cent of medical encounters, the rest were volunteers, spectators and media with relatively minor injuries. We will be treating these people in our own facilities, outside the hospital system.”
Aside from a clean bill of health, Taunton wants the 2010 Games to leave a rich medical legacy. So far, big ticket items include a new blood doping lab, a new CAT Scan in Whistler, 145 treatment beds, defibrillators and training.