Elizabeth Martin believes her 11 years of experience in healthcare administration provided ideal training for her current position as director of medical services for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.
Martin, who turned the big 4-0 the day of our recent interview, has a physical therapy degree from the University of Mississippi and was director of rehabilitation services for Saint Joseph's Hospital of Atlanta before joining the Olympic team in 1993. She now oversees a staff of 35 and 4,000 medical volunteers who will be responsible for:
Providing medical services for athletes, spectators, media, volunteers and officials at training sites and stadiums.
Implementing doping control and other medical screening procedures.
Facilitating research projects on the biomechanics and physiology of sports.
Some 10,000 athletes and 2 million visitors are expected for the Summer Olympics, set for July 19 through Aug. 4. It's the 100th anniversary of the modern games and the hottest thing to hit Atlanta since General Sherman's torchlight parade.
"Healthcare administration prepared me for this job," Martin said in her cluttered cubicle in a downtown skyscraper. "The days are hectic, and nothing is stable or consistent."
Just like in a hospital, each day is a new adventure.
But she also said the ability to communicate, the need to achieve consensus before implementing policy and a customer-service focus are traits she's carried over to the Olympic committee.
"We need teamwork to get things done," she said. "The vocabulary is different, but the objective is the same: dealing with the medical needs of a defined group of people."
Martin has assembled a diverse group of volunteers, including a network of 14 hospitals that's outfitting first-aid stations, mobile medical teams and sports medicine centers with equipment and supplies.
Three Atlanta institutions are playing featured roles:
Crawford Long Hospital of Emory University will handle the Olympic Village, Alexander Memorial Coliseum, press housing and the media center.
Georgia Baptist Health Care System is responsible for Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the Aquatic Center and the Marriott Marquis (hotel for Olympic VIPs).
Piedmont Hospital is charged with the new Olympic Stadium, Georgia World Congress Center, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, Georgia State University, the Georgia Dome, Omni Coliseum and the International Broadcast Center.
Other Atlanta-area hospitals in the network include Northeast Georgia Medical Center, DeKalb Medical Center, Rockdale Hospital, Saint Joseph's, South Fulton Medical Center and Southern Regional Medical Center. Athens Regional Medical Center and St. Mary's Healthcare System were tapped in the Athens area, while Candler Hospital, Memorial Medical Center and St. Joseph's Hospital were designated for events in the Savannah area.
As a group, the 14 have pledged about $7 million in donations to equip the medical facilities. Furthermore, hospital staff and physicians throughout Georgia are among the thousands of volunteers who will provide care.
Local hospitals are weighing how to handle the barrage of vacation requests. Some hospital staffers have volunteered for Olympic duty while others want to enjoy the experience with family and friends.
Conversely, administrators realize the show must go on. While most hospitals expect a dip in elective surgeries, there's concern that the heat, congestion and intensity of the Olympic experience could cause an upswing in medical activity.
"We have to be prepared for any type of situation," said W. Wright Alcorn, Piedmont's vice president of patient services.
The hospital has pledged $750,000 in donations of supplies and equipment, but officials are confident most of the supplies will return to the hospital unopened.
"We expect out-of-pocket costs in the $100,000 range," said Alcorn, who's coordinating the link between Piedmont and the Olympic committee.
A look at the 25-page list of supplies shows the facilities will be amply stocked. At Piedmont, Alcorn has set up a temporary materials management warehouse in a new physician office building. The 5,000-square-foot, air-conditioned site is where carts are being filled with equipment and supplies for transport to the medical stations.
In addition to the prestige and public relations value of participating in the Olympics, Alcorn sees other benefits. "If people from one of our assigned venues require hospitalization, they will be taken to Piedmont," he said.
Like other hospitals in the network, Piedmont is displaying signs on the campus and using a certified "Making It Happen" seal to help publicize its involvement.
Then there's the matter of those hard-to-get ducats. In return for its effort, Piedmont was able to buy 1,000 tickets for various Olympic events. The hospital's 2,300 employees are participating in a lottery to determine the winners.