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Physician Spotlight: A Leader in the Sports Medicine Landscape

Physician spotlight cover image with Kevin Vincent

Kevin Vincent, MD, PhD, is no stranger to sports medicine. This unique specialty was a lifetime dream for the current vice president of the American College of Sports Medicine.

As the director of the UF Health Running Medicine Clinic and medical director of the UF Health Sports Performance Center, Dr. Vincent is a leader in the field. Along with his work at UF Health, he is helping Team USA as it prepares to compete in Paris this summer.

We sat down with Dr. Vincent to discuss the excitement that comes with being part of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Medical Network and getting Team USA ready for the world stage.

What first piqued your interest in sports medicine?

I was an athletic kid thinking about sports and how people recover from injuries. I always liked medicine, because I love physiology and how the body works. By high school, I knew I wanted to be in sports medicine. Growing up in Connecticut, I had a bit of a love affair with Florida after visiting Disney World, so I set my goal to work in sports medicine in Florida, and here I am.

What did you think when you got to college and began studying the field?

I studied exercise physiology, and it was amazing how all these systems adapt to the stimulus of exercise, and you can exercise as a way of improving health, not just athletic performance. I decided then that I wanted to go on to graduate school, which is where I met my wife Heather Vincent and we pursued PhDs together.

What was your experience like training for your career in sports medicine?

I learned researchers have limited access to clinical populations, and I hate limitations, so I entered medical school not only to see patients, but to also find a way to continue my research. I was trying to research how we apply our knowledge of exercise and adaptations to our patient populations. I found that answer in physical medicine, applying exercise function to a medical specialty.

After graduating from the University of Florida in 1999, how did you and your wife (Heather Vincent, PhD) end up working at UF Health?

We presented our research to the chair of the department (UF Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation) at the time, Peter Gearen, MD, and I demonstrated what a PM&R physician could do in partnership with orthopaedics. Dr. Gearen looked at me and said, “I don't understand what you do, but I think we need more of it.” So, in 2007, Heather and I combined our love of exercise and lifestyle with medicine, starting the sports performance center, then the PM&R program and nonoperative sports medicine program at UF Health.

Dr. Kevin Vincent

You were integral in securing our USOPC collaboration. How did it happen?

Jonathan Finnoff, DO, chief medical officer for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, or USOPC, asked me, “Would UF Health be interested in joining the USOP Medical Network?” I basically responded with, “Who wouldn’t?” The idea was we had a concentration of athletes and Team USA athletes in the Southeast, and Jon knew we were providers he could trust. Plus, we had the training and rehab to handle both able-bodied and para-athletes in one place.

What is the significance of this collaboration?

The USOPC chose us to take care of its athletes. That designation alone says, “They can take care of the best. I want them to take care of me.” People are going to look at UF Health and wonder why they picked us, and we hope that means they look closer, they learn more about us and the great programs we have. When we say we have world-class care, we can show that.

What have been some highlights and takeaways from this experience?

We joined as the first national comprehensive medical center in the Southeast to collaborate with the USOPC, and you’re only going to get to be first once. We started getting athletes right away and have gotten exceptional ratings from them. The reputation has been spreading so much so that athletes are now asking to be sent to us. We want people to take away that they chose us to take care of them, and we hope you choose us to take care of you and your family.

What is your patient philosophy?

Treat everyone the same. It’s my job to help you get back to your highest level of function. When you think about functioning at the highest level, it’s physical, it’s psychological, it’s social and vocational, so we want to work with all the domains of the person and their family to help them. Athletes are looking for the same thing. They just give you a compressed timeline like, “I have to compete in 17 days,” so you have to think what can you fix in 17 days and work from that. The thing that will hold people back from getting to the root of a diagnosis is not wanting to take the time to really think and work through it. I will consistently get comments that people love coming to us because of the way that we think or the way we approach a problem.

What is the most rewarding part of helping people achieve their dreams, as you are doing with Team USA?

Achieving their dreams is the gratifying part, and that goes for everybody. For example, I helped a patient who was going to Italy who had a goal of climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa. She took a picture from the top for me and wrote, “You helped to get me here.”

When I get people bringing me back trinkets from these trips, that’s the gratification. Or say they’re recovering from a traumatic injury and that family has an easier time coping after the trauma because of treatment. You’ve helped get things in place, and they’re really thanking you for the compassionate care and how you helped their loved one through a hard time. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.

About the author

For the media

Media contact

Peyton Wesner
Communications Manager for UF Health External Communications (352) 273-9620